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Women of Clearwater Fire & Rescue blazing trails for future generations

Lady firefighters
Posted at 6:41 PM, Jun 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-08 18:43:33-04

CLEARWATER, Fla.— — They fight fires and set examples for young girls all over the Tampa Bay area. Fire service is a male-dominated field, but the women of Clearwater Fire & Rescue are proof to never doubt your strength.

They step on the job ready to serve while running side by side with the boys.

“Never once did it cross my mind that I was not able to do the job that all the other guys can do,” said fire medic Jackelyn Koffler.

The women of Clearwater Fire & Rescue were highlighted on social media this week. The agency has 10 female firefighters, in an industry dominated by men.

“It actually drew me to it,” said fire medic Victoria Martin. “I always enjoy a challenge, and I want to push myself to see how far I can go. I met the same requirements as they did, so I actually think it’s a bigger accomplishment.”

Martin says she’s always wanted to help people and wanted to challenge herself, so this was a perfect fit.

“My motto going through fire academy was, 'The impossible is often the untried,' so you never know what you can do until you try it,” said Martin. “I say go for it and then go from there.”

Clearwater fire ladies

Fire medic Nina Borders is used to being a trailblazer. In 2017, she was hired as the first black female firefighter at Clearwater Fire & Rescue.

“It’s just that hope, that mentorship, and seeing the women that have come before us, and then being with the women that were hired after us, and then just seeing that whole community of us come together and just support each other is quite amazing,” said Borders.

“We have female firefighters that span most of our ranks,” said Division Chief John Klinefelter.

Klinefelter says the agency has about 190 sworn firefighters on the line and says only about five percent of applicants in the fire service, in general, are female. He says the women with their service are the best of the best, while explaining it’s important to have women in their field for diversity and to help better reflect the community they serve.

“These young ladies are strong role models for some of the girls in our community, not just for the fire service, but for any profession that could be considered male dominant,” said Klinefelter. “It gives them that drive to go out there and be successful in the profession that they want to work in.”

The women shared they’re a family with their fellow firefighters.

"We knew that we’d bring a different dynamic that the guys don’t have, so we just come in and do our job, and they all respect us, and we respect them, and it’s a great family," said fire medic Stephanie Nuszkowski.

The group encourages young girls to go for their goals, no matter what profession that might be.

“More than often, we get out of the engine or rescue, and everyone is shocked-face. 'Two girls or one girl? Like what’s going on?” said Koffler. “We’re capable of doing anything. We take the same tests, the physical, written, all of that, and if we’re able to do what the men can do, why wouldn’t we? So I say 100 percent go for it.”