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.

By Jessica Pilot

March 16, 2010 12:00 AM
Share
female firefighter in firehouse bedroom
Lauren Greenfield/INSTITUTE
Back Next

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.
female firefighter responding to a call
Lauren Greenfield/INSTITUTE
Back Next

On the Job

Linda Buell, 36, responds to a call about a suspicious package, which proves to be harmless.
female firefighter grocery shopping
Lauren Greenfield/INSTITUTE
Back Next

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.
leftover pasta dish
Lauren Greenfield/INSTITUTE
Back Next

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
Back Next

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
Back Next

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
Back Next

One of the Guys

Zoraida Diaz, 41, sets about her day's duties: replenishing supplies and checking the fire truck's equipment.
Restart Slideshow

Related Links