As Turkey celebrates Firefighting Week, the recent rise to prominence of women on the nation’s firefighting teams is on display for all to see. Proudly bearing the title of being the first Turkish female firefighters to have graduated from university, Tuba Sağlam, Esma Kurnaz and Esra Ergüden all got their degrees from Akdeniz University’s firefighting and fire safety department and have all been working for three years now in the Antalya Fire Department, constituting an important part of the firefighters’ “brain power.”
Sağlam, Kurnaz and Ergüden are tasked with inspecting city buildings, workplaces, businesses and tourism sites to ensure that they comply with the proper fire safety codes as well as providing information when necessary. All three say they show the same care in their individual homes as they do in the workplaces they inspect when it comes to fire safety.
Kurnaz notes that while actually fighting fires that break out is a crucial skill, and one which she and her female counterparts are quite able to do, at this point, she and her colleagues are working exerting efforts to see that through fire safety codes and training, they can actually prevent fires from starting in the first place. Sağlam notes that when people see them in uniform, they are sometimes surprised but that over time they become accustomed to the idea of female firefighters.
Female personnel who have been working for one year now for the Isparta Fire Department help coordinate notifications of fires that the department receives. Gülperi Doğan, who used to work for the Isparta police but who now works with the city’s firefighting forces, is the voice behind the announcements that spur the local fire force into action. Noting that she is the only woman working on the force, Doğan says she is proud of her work and is fully supported by friends and family in her career. She also talks about how she sees her duties and the duties of local firefighters as “sacred,” noting: “We are quite aware of how important our jobs are. I work in the part of the department known as the ‘brain team.’ But if there is ever a need, I just grab my helmet and jump on the truck to go help save lives. I have all the necessary training in firefighting.”
Isparta Fire Chief Halil Acar notes he has been at his station now for 27 years and that it is his first time ever seeing female personnel working for his department. He says women increase the level of respectability of whatever work they are doing and that the presence of a woman on his team has changed the profile of the firefighters for the better.