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Strength & Stamina: Women in the Fire Department - Home
Early Years: 1883-1915
Fully Manned: 1915-1960
A Man Among Men: 1960-1975
Minority Recruitment and Women
Development of a Pre-Recruit Program
The First Woman Firefighter in Seattle
Early Discrimination
The End of the Pre-Recruit Program
Pregnancy and Disability
Equal Terms?
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Strength & Stamina: Women in the Fire Department

The End of the Pre-Recruit Program

Barbara Moberg
Barbara Moberg

Partly because of costs, ending the female pre-recruit program was considered in 1978. In April 1977, Chief of Training Robert Swartout wrote Chief Frank Hanson about the program. "The more I work with this program the more obvious it becomes that this is not the answer to getting women or minorities into the Department. The limited numbers of people involved make it very cost-ineffective." He recommended the Department focus on recruiting women and minorities likely to pass the entrance examinations.


Although serious discussion ensued about discontinuing the female pre-recruit class in the 1979 budget cycle, the training continued until 1982; after this males and females were combined in pre-recruit classes. By 1982, Seattle had 31 female firefighters. In 1983, one pre-recruit class was conducted with seven women and seven minority males. All fourteen went on to the recruit class. In 1984, 9 women and 27 minority males were hired into firefighter positions. Also in 1984, the first woman entered the Paramedic Technician training program. The 1987 pre-recruit class included eight women who also completed recruit training. More and more women were entering the Department as firefighters.


By the late 1980s the Seattle Fire Department was considered a national model for the recruitment, hiring and retention of women as firefighters, providing assistance to other fire service organizations across the nation. Ten years after the first woman firefighter was hired, the Department had 54 women firefighters. By 1997 the Department was recruiting year-round, and providing study guides to potential candidates to let them know how to prepare for the difficult physical and written tests.

Conference program
Conference flyer

The National Association of Female Firefighters held its second annual conference in Seattle in 1987. Organized by the local chapter of the same organization, members Bonnie Beers, Carrie Oliver and Carol Solberg worked hard to make the conference happen. Considered a success, over 300 women gathered for the conference.

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