Women Join the Firefighting Ranks in New Jersey
There's just a handful of women in New Jersey who fight fires as a full-time job.
Taking into account both career and volunteer firefighters, females make up just 1 percent of fire squad rosters in the Garden State.
At age 21, Christina Sacco was sworn in on June 1 as the city of Wildwood's first female firefighter.
"It's an honor," Sacco told Townsquare Media. "I worked really hard for it."
Her involvement in the field started at age 14 when she joined the volunteer fire house. Her father has been with the department for more than 21 years and was promoted to captain in 2011.
Sacco said she's underwhelmed by the amount of interest from other women in the area, but she's hopeful one day she will no longer be the only woman on the team.
"You have to be willing to take the risks; you have to work hard," Sacco said. "We have to do things in a different way in order to get things done, but as long we're able to do the same exact things as (men) can do, then there's no issue."
Out of the more than 200 firefighters in the Trenton Fire and Emergency Services Department, four are female.
More could be added sometime this year, according to Fire Director Qareeb Bashir.
"There has been a push throughout the years to attract more minorities and women," Bashir said. "Our department has changed quite a bit over the years in terms of the racial makeup of our department and also the gender makeup of our department."
The first female joined the Trenton roster in 1995. Bashir said women face the same responsibilities and expectations as their male colleagues.
"They don't want special treatment," he said.
Laura Single, president of Fire Service Women of New Jersey, said she's hoping to see female numbers increase in the next few years.
Citing the latest statistics, Single said there's an estimated 1,200 women currently registered as firefighters, fire instructors or fire inspectors in New Jersey.
There are at least 30 female firefighters in Bergen County, where Single is located. Earlier this year, the county introduced its second female fire chief.