LAKELAND, Fla. -- After seven months on the job, Lakeland’s new Fire Chief Douglas Riley recently announced a new initiative to hire more women.

  •   Lakeland fire to hire more females
  •   Females make up small percentage of fire crews
  •   Physical fitness is required for recruitment

The department released a video called, “Igniting Change: Women in the Fire Service,” which features the department’s seven female firefighters as well as female chiefs across the nation.

The women share how they overcame the fire academy, their mindsets when heading into burning buildings, how they’re an asset to the team, how the job allows them to have more time with family, and how they’re spreading the word to young girls about the career.

Riley calls women firefighters an asset to the team.

''We run a lot of medical calls and there are certain female patients out there that aren’t comfortable with male practitioners so it really helps to have the female there,'' he said.

Lakeland’s female firefighters make up only 4.6 percent of the department’s crew. One of them, Candice McLendon, said she’s been with the department four years and has already delivered two babies.  

Although the job involves seeing dead bodies, running into burning buildings, a lot of science and medicine, and continuing education, she says saving people makes it all worth it.

''The main thing I like about it is being a part of the community, a helpful part. People call, they call for help and to be able to respond to that and make that difference,'' McLendon said.

She said anyone interested in the job has to be physically fit.

''Your independent gear weighs about 75 pounds but it’s distributed across your body,'' McLendon said.

She said the other perks are a pension and only having to work ten 24-hour shifts a month.

McLendon is helping the department spread the word about the career to youth.

''The number one thing the young girls ask us is, 'Oh I can do this? Do you really go in fires?' Absolutely," Mclendon said. "I don’t think they see enough of us out there so the more women that get involved and the more young women that see us out there doing it, i think it will clue into them this is something they can achieve."

According to the National Fire Protection Association, only four and a half percent of firefighters are women.

Spectrum Bay News 9 out to a few of our local fire departments. While Lakeland just meets that national average, while Polk County Fire Rescue and Haines City surpass it.