Six girls in Dubbo have shown they can handle the heat after taking part in a hands-on program aiming to increase the number of women in the fire service.
Girls on Fire was in Dubbo on November 10 for the Girls Fire and Resilience program.
It would have taken more than a hose to dampen the enthusiasm of six teenagers, aged between 15 and 17, who took part in the day learning about aviation and road crash rescue to remote firefighting and urban fire operations.
Operational officer with the NSW Rural Fire Service, Beth Slender, who was also one of the facilitators on the day, said the not-for-profit program aimed to teach young women in NSW critical firefighting skills and help abandon the idea it's a male profession.
"We were formed to encourage more young women to pursue careers or voluntary roles within the fire and emergency services. It was all under the premise of you can't be what you can't see," she said.
Girls on Fire is a program run in conjunction with volunteers from Fire and Rescue NSW, NSW Rural Fire Service, Airservices Australia and National Parks and Wildlife Service.
The program helps teach young women about firefighting and emergency service skills, increase their confidence and resilience and introduces them to the possibility of a career or volunteering in the fire and emergency services.
"We can acknowledge the emergency services are male dominated, but that does not mean there is no space for women," Officer Slender said.
"The more diverse our teams are, the better prepared we are to serve our communities within NSW."
The program usually hosts a six-day Girls Fire and Emergency Services Camp, however due to COVID-19 a new program 'Virtually Possible' was run across the state. The program combined online learning with virtual workshops and a one-day practical session.
Officer Slender said the six girls who recently participated in Dubbo all "absolutely loved it".
"Just hearing these young girls steering the conversation within each lesson proves how engaged and interested they were and they owned it," she said.
Last week the girls not only sampled the FRNSW physical aptitude test and toured the RFS air operations and air tanker, but undertook breathing apparatus training and used hydraulic tools to cut open cars in a crash rescue scenario.
"All of them walked away with this sheer ability of being able to do it and a feeling of accomplishment," Officer Slender said.
Officer Slender said they had been taking the one-day program to communities who had been affected by natural disaster, and chose Dubbo who had shown resilience after suffering through years of drought.
"The community, while it wasn't affected by fire like the South Coast was, they're still in a state of recovery," officer Slender said.
"The protracted resilience those community members had to continually display certainly would have been as taxing as losing homes."
Officer Slender's advice to young women would be to "give it a go" and not let assumptions hold you back.
More information can be found at the Girls on Fire website.