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N.H.'s women fire chiefs 'ahead of the curve'
They needed an experienced firefighter, preferably an officer, and preferably someone who knew the town well. But most importantly, they needed someone who could handle the tough job of leading 30 call firefighters in high-pressure situations.
Knowing the staff of the department well, and having received fair and equal treatment in the Navy, Mardin said she didn’t expect any different reaction or treatment because she is a woman in what has traditionally been a man’s job.
In accepting the position, Mardin became the fifth female fire chief in the state, and joined the growing ranks of professional female firefighters in the country, said Deb Pendergast of Gilford, a fire chief at the Division of Fire Standards and Training in Concord.
Pendergast, who is in her 23rd year as a firefighter, having been an officer in the Laconia Fire Department for much of her career, said there has been a growth of female firefighters nationally in recent years. She works with several groups promoting fire service as a good career for young women.
While a man might easily pull a victim from a fire by the shoulders, a woman must use different techniques. “But we can still pull the person from the fire, just as a man can,” she said.
Ford said the perspective of being a female firefighter helps her be a better chief.
“I would recommend it for anyone considering it, it’s a great job and I’ve enjoyed it,” Mardin said.
“The only thing is,” Ford said, “you have to really want to do it.”
Ford’s daughter, Sarah Ford, 7, wants to be an EMT, and possibly a firefighter when she’s an adult.
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