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Benton Co. Fire District #1's female firefighters are proud to inspire

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KENNEWICK, WA - Small. Dangerous. Weak. These are all things some might say to describe why women shouldn't be firefighters.

But the women of Benton County Fire District #1 are here to bust those stereotypes. 

Meet Lt. Tracy Baker, Yvette Sanders, Masha Sells, and Kayte Salter. Each one of them joined the department for different reasons, but one thing was the same: they wanted to do their part for the community.

Working in a predominantly male occupation hasn't deterred these women one bit. 

"Its not always about the brute strength," said Sanders. "There's a lot to know and to be knowledgeable about to be able to put out a fire."

So why is it that firefighting can get lost on the list of career possibilities for young girls? When you ask kids when they're younger what they want to be when they grow up, the sky is the limit. But as they age, society can often influence what job they think they can and can't do. 

That's why having role models like these women is so important. 

"It's having the little girls coming up to me during public safety events and say 'women, girls can be firefighters?' And I say 'yes, yes we can,'" said Baker. "We're firefighters and we're good at it."

And others are starting to notice the lack of female firefighters. According to the National Fire Protection Association, only 7 percent of the U.S.'s firefighters are female. 

The Washington Commissioner for Public Lands, Hilary Franz, has been pushing for more women to be involved in wildland firefighting since last year only 14.5 percent of the team was female. 

And the message from the women of Benton County is similar.

"If you want to be a firefighter, be a firefighter. It's fun," said Salter.

To sign up for wildland firefighting, visit: https://www.dnr.wa.gov/wildfirejobs

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