All female students in athletics at Santa Barbara High School (SBHS) were invited Thursday to a career talk focused on firefighting, hosted by Athletic Director Joe Chenoweth and Abe Powell, an SBHS alum and board director of the Montecito Fire Protection District. “We’re looking for the future of public safety and the leaders to get us through difficult times ahead,” Powell told the group of about 300.
Maeve Juarez, a wildland fire specialist with Montecito Fire, told the athletes that she was drawn to firefighting because of the constant drive to improve and work harder. “You’re always trying to be better than you were yesterday and you’re always part of team, just like sports,” she said.
Nationwide, women comprise less than 4% of the firefighting workforce, according to the United States Department of Labor. Santa Barbara City Fire Captain Kathi Sizemore. Simone said she became a firefighter because she’s a thrillseeker and likes helping people. “Fire service is one of the best careers out there,” she said. “It’s really exciting and really fun.” She encouraged the young women to visit a fire station and speak to the firefighters if they were interested in pursuing the career. However, she added, becoming a firefighter is no easy task. “It’s a very competitive process.”
One student asked about gender discrimination in the hiring process. “The guys do look at the girls a little [more critically],” said Simone. “But athletes do well because they take care of [themselves].”