LIFE

How Women Are Fighting Fire With, Well, Everything Men Use

It's not fireman, got it?

28/11/2016 2:00 PM AEDT | Updated 01/12/2016 7:14 PM AEDT
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Chief Fire Officer Stephanie Rotarangi is leading the way for women in firefighting.

When bushfires rage across the dry scrub of Victoria, firefighters need to do more than douse flames with water -- they need to be problem solvers.

And the more diverse a problem-solving group, the better the solution, but it's no game -- lives and livelihoods are at stake when a fire front approaches.

To address diversity, Victoria is aiming to have 50 percent women in senior positions in Forest Fire Management Victoria in three years -- currently it's at 19 percent.

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Fire management is a complex game of preparation, backburning and action.

Chief fire officer Stephanie Rotarangi told The Huffington Post Australia she didn't realise her own goals in firefighting seemed lofty to others until she became NZ's equivalent fire chief.

"People would stop me on the street, and tell me they were so proud to have a woman in the role, or that they never thought they could do it themselves -- and we're talking all genders and walks of life.

"It was quite humbling actually."

Rotarangi never questioned her chances at becoming a firefighter, because her dad is one, some of her brothers are, and she married a firefighter.

"For me personally, I never questioned that I could be a firefighter as a woman because I was always surrounded by firefighters, so I never saw any barriers, but I think it's really important to say that just because I didn't face barriers doesn't mean they're not there.

"One thing that's very clear to me is just how important messaging is. Many people don't think it's a choice for them."

Tyler Stableford
Women can be firefighters just like they're police, doctors and astronauts.

Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change Lily D'Ambrosio said Victoria was lucky to have Rotarangi, and that her appointment was not based on her gender.

"Stephanie is the most qualified person for the job and is serving as a great example to others," D'Ambrodio told HuffPost Australia.

"Her strong leadership and experience is an invaluable addition to our firefighting efforts.

"We want people performing leadership roles in our fire and emergency management services that reflect the communities they serve."

Check out the action plan to bring women into leadership roles here.

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