Female firefighters support HFD

August 3, 2009 9:27:11 AM PDT
Allegations of racism and sexism within the Houston Fire Department have city leaders watching. Now a group of female firefighters are stepping forward to defend the department and their male coworkers. In recent weeks, several female firefighters have come forward claiming mistreatment. Two contend they were harassed at work with racist graffiti. Then, just last week, five more female firefighters claimed they were also targets of harassment over the last decade.

The negative attention pushed a group of six veteran firefighters to talk about the Houston Fire Department they know, one that is not rife with discrimination, but is among the most diverse in the country.

The group of six includes captains and engineers. All of them are veterans.

Captain Kelly Baudat, 12-year HFD veteran: "Once you put your gear on, nobody knows who you are."

Captain Shelley Squires, 13-year HFD veteran: "We have caring individuals. They're honest. They're full of integrity. I love my job. I love what I do."

Iris Rodriguez, 16-year veteran: "Our department has come a long way in promoting women and diversity."

Jocelyn Garriga, 15-year HFD veteran: "I would love nothing more than for my daughter to, when she grows up, that this is what the career she chooses."

Kim Phillips, 8-year HFD veteran: "We are a very proud organization. We have awesome firefighters and amazing officers."

Syrtara Moore, 6-year HFD veteran: "We don't want any woman who wants to be a fireman deterred from applying because of what's going on right now."

They approached Eyewitness News about sharing their views to, as they put it, balance the coverage of their department and their male coworkers.

Phillips: "We feel they have been unfairly portrayed as being harsh on women. Harsh on minorities. I think all of us would agree that it's just not the case."

Capt. Squires: "I think a lot of media, political activists have taken a one-sided point of view."

None of them dispute the allegations made over the last several weeks. If the allegations are true, they want the people responsible to be disciplined, but they don't want what they call isolated incidents to be the complete picture.

Rodriguez: "I don't feel like a victim. I feel like most women who apply for this position know that they're walking into a male-dominated field."

Garriga: "We all pretty much feel that these are isolated incidents and they in no way should reflect how we are as people."

Capt. Baudat: "Sometimes we treat each other like brothers and sisters and I think maybe that's where sometimes these problems that we're dealing with are."

Moore: "If we are more proactive instead of reactive, I think we can nip some of this in the bud."

While they acknowledge the Houston Fire Department has its issues and there is room for improvement, they support their chief, the administration, and their union.

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