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Of the 700 Spanish-speaking firefighters in attendance at the 42nd Annual Spanish Fire School this week, 53 of them are women. Fire school officials believe it is the most “bomberas” or women firefighters to ever attend the annual school.
Natalia: A 23-year-old volunteer firefighter from Bolivar, Venezuela, Natalia Contreras is completing her first ever week at Brayton Fire Training Field.
She has been a firefighter since she was 19-years-old, when he parents finally gave her consent to do so.
“It was hard for my family,” Natalia said. “They thought that, since I am a woman, I should be doing something more feminine, and they didn’t like the work a firefighter has to do. Also, I’m the youngest in my family. But now they’re proud of me, and I even have a little cousin who plans to follow in my footsteps and join the juvenile fire brigade. I’ve even been featured on the cover of some magazines and been interviewed, so I’m a little famous in my home town.”
Even as a young child, Natalia was destined to become a firefighter. She talked of how her mother always told her that she had very humanitarian instincts and always wanted to help people.
“I live in a place where there were many accidents, and I used to go out and help,” Natalia exclaimed. “That led me to want to get the kind of training I’d need to do the job well.”
Her service does not stop there. To make a living, Natalia is a professor at her local university, where she teaches a course about disaster management.
Carmen: While Natalia is a first-generation firefighter, 27-year-old Carmen Alonso has a family history of the profession. Her father came to the TEEX Fire School as an instructor for many years, and she grew up hearing him talk about Brayton Fire Field since 1981 when she was one-year-old.
“I learned from my father to be concerned for the safety of people and property, and I’ve pretty much been doing what he does,” Carmen said. “We have a school where we teach the disciplines needed for those who work in the prevention of accidents, fire fighting, and all types of safety and security careers.”
Carmen added, “We come to TEEX because of the projects they have here, which we don’t have in our country. We have training fields, but nothing on this scale.”
When asked how it has been being surrounded by many men all week, Carmen responded: “No problem! We’ve had no trouble at all. There’s a lot of respect for the women, the guys help us a lot, and we’ve felt very comfortable around them. We feel we’ve been able to show that we can carry our share of the load and do the hard work, and that we can be as quick and sharp in a crisis as anyone else.”