Final Five: Women with Fresno Fire Department thankful for second family

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Capt. Karey Wedemeyer has been with the Fresno Fire Department for 23 years.

She says it's been a great opportunity for her personally, but also as a female.

"It's the best job ever," she said. "It's like going to be part of a team and you going to the game every day. You do a lot of laughing. You do a little crying. But you're constantly part of this team that constantly gets to help people."

Firefighters work two days straight and then have four days off.

Wedemeyer says it gives her the flexibility to do other things that she enjoys, like exercise and travel.

Although some might assume female firefighters cannot keep up physically with men, the requirements are the same for both men and women.

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Firefighters have to be able to bench press their own weight, but the emphasis is more on aerobic edurance, stamina and the ability to use your strength to problem solve.

"Firefighting is the best job in the world," says Fire Capt. Adriane Blankenship. "I think women are good at it because they multi-task, and they can, and they're rough. I think some women don't give themselves credit for how tough they are until they've met a challenge."

Fresno Fire Chief Kerri Donis says firefighters need to have a servant's heart. Men and women have to put their lives on the line every day.

They are exposed to communicable diseases and poisonous substances and are at a high risk of getting cancer.

Nevertheless, Donis says a career in the fire service has its own rewards.

"This is such a blessed opportunity to serve," she said. "You just have this calling to serve, but it's really like a second family. You live a third of your life with these firefighters in the station. We work 40 hours straight and then you're off for four days. But you become a family, and you trust each other and rely on each other."

There are some perks to the job, like a good pension.

There is opportunity to promote up the ranks and you can work for 20 years and retire.
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