Media Advisory: FSWO Hosts 2022 Training Symposium

Canada’s Women Firefighters Call for Gender Equity in the Fire Hall - More Training in First Response Mental Resilience

BELLEVILLE, ON – Early in her career as a firefighter in the New York City Fire Department, Michele Fitzsimmons answered the call at the World Trade Centre on September 11, 2001. Six of her academy classmates were among the 343 firefighters killed that day, a tragic legacy that motivated her leadership and resilience to become the highest ranked female firefighter in the FDNY today.

Battalion Fire Chief Fitzsimmons brings her inspiration and learning to over 150 women in the Canadian fire service attending the 2022 Fire Service Women Ontario (FSWO)Training Symposium hosted by Belleville Fire and Emergency Services from October 19-22.

“Belleville Fire and Emergency Services is proud to host this exceptional training symposium which brings together men and women in the fire service,” said Monique Belair, Belleville. “Our facilities will host several fascinating in-class sessions and ‘Hands on Training’ practical training sessions, with exceptional opportunities to meet and connect with others from all over Canada and the United States. Belleville extends a warm welcome to this extraordinary group of first responders.”

FSWO is calling on the fire service industry to prioritize gender equity in one of the most honourable but male-populated professions in Western society.

“Gender equity in the fire service creates a healthy, normalized environment but in spite of decades trying to fit in, women firefighters often face old stereotypes, unconscious sexism and gender-biased occupational stress,” said FSWO President Pike Krpan, a career firefighter with the City of Hamilton. “More often than not, emotional and sexual harassment are covert practices that keep the fire service disproportionately male-oriented.”

The annual FSWO training symposium Fire Service Women Ontario will welcome men and women from the Canadian fire service industry to focus on workplace diversity and how best to reflect modern, gender-balanced community demographics in the fire hall.

Workshops run by female leaders in the fire service will focus on how women can integrate more effectively in a male-dominated industry when less than five per cent of its workforce is made up of women, the lowest female representation in the First Responder sector.

Experienced female firefighters will also train new recruits in physical and mental resilience vital to modern day firefighting, including firefighter survival, fire suppression, forcible entry, the use of power saws, roof ventilation, and strength and conditioning.

Keynote speakers include Celene Lemire, former Deputy Chief of People Culture and Equity in the Vancouver Fire Service; Michele Fitzsimmons, Battalion Chief FDNY; and Ottawa Firefighter Cheryl Hunt, a specialist on current fire science and best practice fire ground tactics.

“Ensuring gender equity. especially within a predominantly male team, is a healthy way for the entire squad to benefit from teamwork and open communication,” said President Krpan. “Good training and physical conditioning are important for all firefighters, but the success of any emergency squad is based on their capacity to communicate to one another, to work as a team and to collaborate. Women are particularly good at that.”


Media Briefing

Friday, October 21 at 10:00 AM

The Hastings Prince Edward Mutual Aid Association Fire Training Complex

22 Chester Road


For more Symposium details, please visit

Media contact: Kathryn Hendrick, 416-277-6281,