LEXINGTON, Ky. — To encourage women to become first responders, and to remember the legacy of a fallen firefighter, the Lexington Fire Department hosted a free camp for young women. Camp organizers also hope the event will promote women's empowerment throughout the industry.
“When I was little, I was like oh only men can be firefighters but I’ve learned that women can do it,” Alezondra Knight, 16-year-old camp member said.
Knight was one of the 25 girls who attended the Brenda Cowan Fire Camp in Lexington.
“It makes me motivated even more because I have to prove myself before I really want to do it,” Knight said.
This is the 5th year in a row that the Lexington Fire Department has held this camp in Brenda Cowan’s honor. Captain Maquel Johnson said Cowan was the first for many women in the industry.
“First African American female in the Lexington fire department, first African American female to get promoted to lieutenant in Lexington, sadly, tragically, first African American female that was killed in line of duty in the United States,” Johnson said.
The fallen Lexington Fire lieutenant died of a gunshot wound in 2004. To keep her memory alive, Johnson says they hope to encourage young women to join their family.
“It’s not to say that it’s a brotherhood, because all the females are in the brotherhood with us. We’re one big family, so I think that’s what makes our career different,” Johnson said.
The annual event is free to women ages 16-25 with both in classroom experience and hands on training.
“So this camp is good for young females to see that yes, it’s a male dominated career, but as females, especially young females, you have opportunities for other females to point you in the right direction,” Johnson said.
Opportunities that Knight said she hopes to pursue when she turns 19.
“Keep working. Yes, it’s gonna be hard at first, but if you really do love it you can do it,” Knight said.
To one day work alongside these first responders, Knight said she hopes to encourage young females like herself within the next few years. The Lexington Fire Department’s hiring process opens up in December this year. The city hopes to see more women come out and become a part of the department.