New South Wales Fire Brigade retained firefighter Tanya Burkhardt stands out the front of the Mullumbimby Fire Station with retained firefighter Sean Kenny in the background.
New South Wales Fire Brigade retained firefighter Tanya Burkhardt stands out the front of the Mullumbimby Fire Station with retained firefighter Sean Kenny in the background. JERAD WILLIAMS

Mullum firies look for that feminine touch

IT’S not only the oiled men who grace the pages of the yearly firefighter calendar – there is a courageous woman amongst the ranks too.

But not enough, according to Mullumbimby retained firefighter Tanya Burkhardt.

The Mullumbimby Fire Brigade is embarking on a campaign to recruit woman firefighters because as it stands, there are only two brave females in the town’s ranks.

There will be moments when it is really hot, scary and a little smokey, but it’s well worth it, Ms Burkhardt believes.

“I do find with some women they think it is a job they can not do because of the heavy lifting and things,” she said.

“I have never felt like I am doing it on my own, there is always someone there helping you.

“The training you get is awesome and you feel like you are always learning.

“So I am trying to build awareness that it is doable because I guess there is still a minority in the brigade and I do get people who are interested but are hesitant because they don’t know what is involved.

“When I was younger, living in Brisbane, I was obsessed with firies and fire trucks and people would always say, ‘oh no you can’t do that’.

“Then I moved down here and heard they were recruiting so I gave it a go.”

The 35-year-old has been employed part-time as a retained firefighter at her local station for the past four years and before that, the Mullumbimby Fire Station had not had a woman’s touch for almost five years.

Now jaws drop in the street as she drives the fire truck, lights flashing and sirens blazing down Mullumbimby’s main drag.

“The social aspect is great and the guys here are very Mullumbimby they are not like the occas you get in the city and you can have a laugh with them,” she said.

For those considering jumping in the big red truck, females need not worry – there is no chance you will be selected as Miss May or Miss December in the 2011 Firefighter’s Calender.

“I think there might be one on the Gold Coast but the opportunity has never come up here,” Ms Burkhardt said.

“You would be surprised how many times we get asked about that. I think everyone is aware of the political correctness of it so they ask the boys first.”

Ms Burkhardt will have the hose and fire fighting attire at the ready for willing ladies – and men – at the recruitment information session at the Mullumbimby Fire Station on October 15 from 10am until noon.



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