PENTICTON - The newest member of the Penticton Fire Deparment has the distinction of being the city’s first female career firefighter.
Issy 'Izzy' Venables began her firefighting duties at the city’s number one fire hall this week.
Venables joins the department with more than a decade of firefighting experience. The Penticton resident says interest in the job was sparked after a job shadowing exercise while she was in high school.
“It just seemed like the right direction to go," she says. "I graduated in 2004, the year after the Okanagan Mountain fire, so I had just seen an epic forest fire season locally.”
Venables got a job as part of a B.C. Wildfire Management crew in Princeton that saw her working forest fires all over the province, Canada and the U.S. for three seasons.
She transferred to a Penticton initial attack crew where she spent four seasons, working mostly in the Southern Interior.
“I realized I was interested in pursuing a structural role,” she says,
Venables worked towards her structural firefighting goal, becoming part of Penticton Fire Department’s auxiliary program for four years, riding to calls with the full time staff. During that time, a couple nights a week, she went to first responder calls, fire calls and vehichle crashes.
In 2009, Venables completed a three month firefighting course in Texas, which gave her the Firefighter One and Two designations necessary to seek employment as a career firefighter with the city.
Venables says she appreciates the job’s dynamics, saying firefighting is a career that’s always changing.
“You’re always doing something different. I like the community involvement aspect of the fire department, I really like doing charity work, and I find assisting paramedics on first responder calls rewarding as well," she says.
Venables says she has not experienced any gender-related issues in the course of her work as firefighter.
“I haven’t found gender to be an issue. I definitely think it takes a certain type of person to do the job, but I think that’s the way it is with any career,” she says.
Deputy fire chief Dennis Smith agrees gender issues won’t be a problem in Penticton.
“We’re very happy to have her on board with us,” Smith says, adding female career firefighters, while not yet commonplace, are no longer rarities.
Venables says she's very lucky to be working with a great group of firefighters.
“They’ve taught me so much... As a probation firefighter you’re in this position of having so much information thrown at you, so to be able to have that solid foundation of career firefighters to help you, it really makes things run smoothly,” she says.
“I feel really well supported here. The camaraderie is already apparent.”
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