By Sara Belsole
COLUMBUS, GA - There's a new class of fire cadets brining diversity to Columbus Fire and EMS.
A record number five females are in training to join the department, including firefighter Anne Land.
Land has witnessed the gender evolution over the past 14 years. "There were a lot less 14 years ago, more women are realizing they can join the fire service, it's more accepted now," she says.
"Fire is an equal opportunity enemy. It doesn't matter what gender or ethnicity, it kills you just the same," Training Officer Lt. Chuck Herlth says.
This year's class has 20 cadets, and after weeks in the classroom, it's finally time for the first controlled burn.
The controlled burn exercise is called the switch, load and go, where each firefighter in a team of five gets to practice in each of the positions they could be in during a real fire.
"One person is going to catch the hydrant, while another person is grabbing the nozzle and advancing the line to the door of the building and the remainder of that squad has different positions along the line," Herlth says..
The switch, load and go is designed to test knowledge, stamina and communication skills.
"There's so many different beeping noises going off and everyone is talking through a mask so it's real muffled," Cadet William Murray says.
Playing on one of women's strengths.
"We are a lot better at communicating," Land says.
But that's not a female firefighter's only skill. After the drill, the male cadets said gender had no effect on the line.
"Everyone pulled their weight pretty equally," Murray says.
Just like in all the other training exercises.
"They do have the meet the same stringent standards that all the male cadets have to meet," Herlth says.
These cadets will be done with fire training in march and then begin the rest of their medical and EMT training through November.
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