Prior to 40 years ago, there were no women in the Kansas City Fire Department. Now its numbers for women in the department are sitting at about six times the national average.
KCFD hired its first woman firefighter in 1977. The first two were Ann Wedow and Kathy Kline. They and others were able to blaze a trail for women in Kansas City to find success as firefighters.
One of those women is Donna Maize, KCFD assistant chief of technical services.
“I feel like I was raised by the fire department,” said Maize, who watched her father in the heroic role as a child. “I wouldn’t do anything else.”
She’s been working in the department for 24 years. This includes time spent as a firefighter, academy training officer, and now, she oversees all technical services.
“You could help people you don’t even know and be willing to give your life to them if necessary,” said Maize.
Still, like other women in fire services, they must overcome stereotypes that come along with the job.
— Belinda Post (@Belinda_Post) July 25, 2016
Some female firefighters say if they wear a KCFD shirt in the community, people will ask them if it’s their husband’s shirt.
“When I say I work for the fire department, they usually ask me if I'm a dispatcher,” said Maize.
Female firefighters are scarce enough that some people still don't think of them in the role.
Officials says about two percent of firefighters nationally are women. KCFD's numbers are considerably better at nearly 13 percent.
"In this job, it doesn't really matter what your race or gender is, as long as you can do the job," said Captain Dennis Glasglow.
Glasglow and Maize worked together at Fire House 42, where they served as captains on separate shifts.
Maize said she would still like to be a fire chief in Kansas City somewhere.
Starting this fall, KCFD will teach paramedic classes at high schools in Kansas City, Missouri schools. They are hoping to attract even more women to the field.
Belinda Post can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.