KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Kansas City, Kansas received a $2.3 million SAFER grant to hire 18 firefighters in 2020. But the department recently announced none of its new recruits are women.
The department had 77 applicants, but of the 14 women, three withdrew and nine failed an ability test. That test requires them to advance an attack line 100 feet up an incline, open a fire hydrant, retreat a 3 inch line back to the truck, remove and replace a ladder from the truck, raise another ladder 24 feet in the air, carry a 50 pound hose up three stories and then pull a 150 pound mannequin back and forth across the station, all in just over four minutes.
“It’s a lot of cardio. So a lot of people underestimate that you need the strength. But as long as you use your body, you can get through it,” Jen Amayo said.
Amayo started out working for an ambulance service but at age 40 she decided to become a firefighter.
“We had a huge apartment fire. I knew people were trapped, and it was hard for me not to go in and help them,” she said.
KCKFD Fire Chief Michael Callahan just announced he’ll remove an automatic disqualifying question about past marijuana use, and reinstitute a paid trainee program.
In the next recruitment period, applicants will also have access to equipment for hands-on training prior to the test, which was not offered this time because of the pandemic.
The department points to a national 10-year study, which found women and minorities were underrepresented in even earning their initial EMT certification.
“Once we increase that pool we’ll have more of a likelihood of reflecting the demographics that we live in,” Battalion Chief Scott Schaunaman said.
“When the public sees us and sees there’s more women, it also shows the younger kids that they can do it,” Amayo said.
According to data released by the fire department of the 20 recruits chosen for its training class, 13 are white, four are Latinx, 1 is Asian/Pacific Islander, one is Black, and one is unspecified.