Cleveland hasn't hired a female firefighter since 1989

Posted at 6:29 AM, Mar 08, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-08 08:55:41-05

Before they're called to emergencies, northeast Ohio's firefighters have to prove they're ready for a course like the one at Cuyahoga Community College. 

"In the first five to ten minutes on scene at a fire, firefighters are doing some of the most physically demanding work that one could ever encounter," said Cuyahoga Community College Commander of Fire Training Daniel Waitkus.

Just to get hired in the region, firefighters have to finish the multi-phase course in four and a half minutes with ankle weights and a 20-pound air tank on their back.

Cleveland Fire Chief Angelo Calvillo told the City Council physical demands like the agility test and lifestyle demands, like working 24-hour shifts, are part of the reason his department hasn't hired a female firefighter since 1989.

"Whether you're a male candidate or a female candidate, a lot of times, we're looking for a physical person," said Cleveland Fire Spokesman Mike Norman.

That means veterans and former athletes, regardless of gender, tend to excel. Still, Waitkus says even with all the firefighters he trains for many different departments in Ohio, only about 3% are women.

"I don't look at it as a barrier, but this is a requirement of the job," said Waitkus.

News 5's Kevin Barry went through the course himself. Watch his wholehearted effort below.