The Hottest Job in America

Though today they represent just 6,000 of the nation's 1.1 million firefighters, women are finally cracking the white-hot ceiling of this once solidly male profession.

female firefighter in firehouse bedroom
Though today they represent just 6,000 of the nation's 1.1 million firefighters, women are finally cracking the white-hot ceiling of this once solidly male profession, with California leading the way. Meet the ladies of Oakland's Station 29, where on some shifts women outnumber men by nearly 2-1.
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A Hard Day's Work
Firefighters at Station 29 serve in 24-hour shifts. Betsey Kimmel, 43, settles into one of the firehouse's four spartan bedrooms.
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Lauren Greenfield/INSTITUTE
On the Job
Linda Buell, 36, responds to a call about a suspicious package, which proves to be harmless.
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House Rules
The on-duty crew goes grocery shopping every morning. In the event of an alarm, a designated supermarket employee minds the cart until the team returns.
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The Firehouse Diet
Meals are routinely interrupted by alarms. This alfredo dish sat for hours before the crew returned from a 911 call.
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Lauren Greenfield/INSTITUTE
Taking the Heat
"People are always surprised by what I do. Someone once asked me, 'You actually put out fires?' What did she expect me to say, that I just cook and clean?" —Melinda Drayton, Oakland Battalion Chief
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One of the Guys
Zoraida Diaz, 41, sets about her day's duties: replenishing supplies and checking the fire truck's equipment.
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