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, 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.
Lauren Greenfield/INSTITUTE

On the Job

Linda Buell, 36, responds to a call about a suspicious package, which proves to be harmless.
Lauren Greenfield/INSTITUTE

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.
Lauren Greenfield/INSTITUTE

The Firehouse Diet

Meals are routinely interrupted by alarms. This alfredo dish sat for hours before the crew returned from a 911 call.
Lauren Greenfield/INSTITUTE

Imminent Danger

Fire accounts for less than 10 percent of Oakland's 56,000 emergency calls each year. Station 29 also responds to floods, earthquakes, chemical spills, and potential acts of terror.
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
Lauren Greenfield/INSTITUTE

One of the Guys

Zoraida Diaz, 41, sets about her day's duties: replenishing supplies and checking the fire truck's equipment.
Lauren Greenfield/INSTITUTE
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