MCADOO, SCHUYLKILL COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) In our area, several women suit up and answer the call as part of their local fire department.
Whitney Perna and Sarah Lindsey have a lot in common. They’ve both been a part of their local fire departments since before they could drive a car.
Whitney: “I started when I was 14.”
Sarah: “I turned 14. That’s when juniors can join.”
They both work for multiple fire companies.
Whitney: “Two companies, yes.”
Sarah: “I’m actually with three!”
And for both women, fighting fires is a family affair.
“I’m a third generation firefighter. It was my grandfather, and then my dad,” said Sarah.
“Gary’s my husband, and he’s a firefighter. His dad is my father-in-law, and he’s a firefighter too,” Whitney told us.
But, perhaps, what innately bonds them more than anything else is that they’re part of a very small statistical group.
“We don’t judge each other, we’re there for each other,” said Whitney.
According to the US Fire Administration, there are roughly 1.2 million registered firefighters in the United States. Less than 10% of those firefighters are women.
But, gender doesn’t define ability.
Sarah explains, “We do the exact same training. The exact… everything is the exact same.”
And with hard work, these women have been able achieve some impressive milestones in their male-dominated service.
“It could be tough. A lot of guys will judge you. I’m not gonna lie. But in the end, you just prove them wrong and do what you’ve gotta do.”
Whitney has been proving them wrong since she stepped foot in her company’s fire house.
“I was the first female firefighter after 150 years.”
17 years later…
“I’m the first female president of Pioneer Fire Company of Hazleton City.”
In that time, she also became the first woman for both McAdoo and Pioneer Fire Company in Hazleton to receive her “Firefighter 1” certificate.
Now, these two are using their unique perspective and acquired skill sets to encourage others to get involved.
“In the fire service, there’s a spot for everybody. Whether you want to go into the building, just help outside, if you want to help with water,” said Sarah.
Regardless of age, and regardless of gender.
“Going to do fire prevention, I always get little girls that come up to me, and hug me and stuff, ’cause they love what I do and they always tell me they want to be a firefighter,” said Whitney.
Because, no matter who you are, you have a chance to positively impact your community.
“Knowing that you’re there to help people. Knowing that, if somebody has a bad day… they need to talk, cry… you’re there,” Sarah added.