Including Women in the Fire Service

A Strategy Toolkit for Fire Departments

Section 3




Recruitment is the generation of an applicant pool for a position or job in order to provide the required number of candidates for a subsequent selection or promotion program. Recruitment is necessary in order to meet your organization’s goals and objectives as well as meeting other requirements such as human rights, employment equity, labour law, and other legislation.

Effective Recruitment:
Effective recruitment and selection will lead to your fire service’s success. Differences in skills among job candidates translate into performance differences on the job that have economic consequences for your fire service. Hiring the right people with the right skills, will lead to positive economic outcomes for your fire service. Meanwhile, hiring a person with the wrong skillset can lead to disaster for both the person and your fire service. Effective recruitment and selection practices identify job applicants with the appropriate level of knowledge, skills, abilities and other (KSAOs) requirements needed for successful performance.


According to the recent study Insights from the Inside, Mills et al. (2020) found little difference between how women and men are introduced to firefighting. Based on the study, the three most common routes to becoming a firefighter for both women and men included: 1) always wanting to be a firefighter; 2) being introduced by a friend; and 3) having family members who were firefighters. The importance for both women and men of having a family connection to firefighting or being introduced to firefighting by a friend speaks to the importance of connecting with friends and family as agents in future recruitment campaigns. Women were also more likely to have been actively recruited.

Targeted recruiting creates more opportunity to attract a greater pool of people and does not disadvantage those not in the target group, but instead creates a more competitive playing field where the best can be hired from a wider field of candidates.

2Best Practices

Ensure there are mechanisms in place to attract women and other underrepresented groups. Think about how candidates are found and advertise where they may be looking for career information, such as online employment sites, social media networks, and more traditional media like newspapers, radio or television.

Create a recruitment campaign that showcases how the fire service is a place of diversity, inclusion, and belonging. It is important that the messaging is genuine. For example, check out award-winning recruitment campaign #YouBelongHere.[1]

Explore other recruitment means such as information sessions targeted specifically to women and underrepresented groups. Invite female and other firefighters from underrepresented groups to talk about their experience at recruitment events and centres.

Present the physicality and collegiality of the job as an attractive feature in recruitment drives. Most female and male respondents in the recent Insights Study (Mills et. al., 2020) had prior experience in sports and athletics. Other important pathways include volunteer firefighting, mechanical experience and medical experience.

Create programs to introduce young women and girls to firefighting, such as Fire Service Women Ontario’s Camp FFIT (Female Firefighters in Training).


Step 1. Size-Up with SWOT Analysis

As discussed in Section 1: Introduction to Change, your fire service should take the time to evaluate its policies around recruitment in consideration of your diversity and inclusion goals and targets.

Undertake a SWOT analysis to identify your organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats relevant to existing policies. When considering external factors compare your policies and resources against those of the larger corporation (i.e., municipality). When considering recruitment campaigns, use the SWOT analysis to identify how the fire service is a place of diversity, inclusion, and belonging.

When undertaking the SWOT Analysis (table below), consider what is happening today, what is planned, and what needs to occur to ensure change is possible. With respect to strengths, be specific listing existing policies, procedures, committees, task forces, anything that can help support the SWOT Analysis. Similarly, with respect to opportunities be sure to list desired improvements while including barriers that stand in the way. Use the analysis to create recruitment campaigns that showcase how the fire service is a place of diversity, inclusion, and belonging. It is important that the messaging is genuine.

Helpful to achieving objectivesHarmful to achieving objectives
Internal FactorsUpdated Diversity & Inclusion PolicyNot aligned with objectives / targets
Updated Recruitment & Selection PolicyLack of resources
Strong volunteer poolOutdated policies
Previous participation in recruitment campaignsOutdated KSAOs
Recruitment budget approved
Updated job descriptions
Training and development approved budget
External DriversHuman Resources buy-inBudget support not aligned with updating policies
Strong relationships with local business and other fire hallsPolicies not aligned with corporation

Step 2: Build a Plan with objectives

Based on the themes from the SWOT Analysis, begin to build your recruitment plan while aligned with your fire service’s vision, mission and values in consideration of existing diversity & inclusion Policies. To begin, identify your organization’s objectives using the Smart Goal method.

Smart Goals

Using the SMART method, detail your fire service goals related to the recruitment themes identified during the SWOT analysis.

Example 1:
WHO – Delta Fire Service
WHAT – Update / Revise Recruitment Policies
WHERE / WHEN – Delta Hall #12, by March 31, 2022
STANDARD (MEASURABLE) – Identify policy revisions and include recruitment strategy.
Objective 1: The Delta Fire Hall #12 commits to updating its recruitment policy that will include defined recruitment strategies aligned with hiring a diverse and inclusive fire hall by March 31, 2022.

Example 2:
WHO – Echo Fire Service
WHAT – Hold / host a recruitment program
WHERE / WHEN – CampFFIT – October 2022
STANDARD (MEASURABLE) – Sponsor at least five (5) candidates through the Camp FFIT program, of which a minimum of two (2) recruits will be from underrepresented groups.
Objective 2: Echo Fire Hall #28 will host the October 2022 Recruitment Conference – Camp FFIT, while sponsoring five (5) candidates including two (2) being from underrepresented groups.

Step 3: Implement your Plan

Based on your fire service’s recruitment objectives & goals begin to build your implementation plan. Recall this will include an outline of the program, budget details, responsibilities, and timing.

Using Objective 2 from earlier, the steps involved with creating an implementation plan are listed below.

Objective 2: Echo Fire Hall #28 will host the October 2022 Recruitment Program – Camp FFIT, while sponsoring five (5) candidates including two (2) being from underrepresented groups.


Host Camp FFIT 2022


Identify the timing of the Camp FFIT Program.

Identify resources / volunteers to assist with the Program.

Identify recruitment strategy for sponsors (e.g., television, radio, internet, website etc.).

Identify cost of Program, and sponsorship.

Identify budget approval process.

Budget / Resources:

People, time. (approx. cost)

Procedures / Actions:

Review previous year's Camp FFIT Program.

Contact Camp FFIT Organizers / other departments who have successfully implemented Camp FFIT.

Work with Camp FFIT and/or Human Resources to identify possibly sponsors.

Research possible recruitment strategies for reaching participants, volunteers, and sponsors (e.g., posters, radio, schools).

Review budgetary costs / plan with Leadership.

Create a detailed financial budget.

Create a detailed timeframe and expectations.

Develop strategy to build internal and external relationships.

Develop registration forms and safety sign-off sheets.


Leadership: Approval of budgets and Plans.

Human Resources: Support with Recruitment Strategies.

CampFFIT Organizers: Support and recommendations for sponsorship.

Volunteers: Assist with coordinating and implementing CampFFIT Program, coordinating with Sponsors.

Fire Chief: Approval of the Implementation Plan.


6-9 months

Step 4: Evaluating Plan Performance

Your fire service has created its recruitment implementation plan, now it is time to assess its performance. Continuing with the previous example (objective 2), the implementation performance can be assessed using a simplified scorecard method. Recall, when applying the scorecard you are assessing your plan against a baseline – before implementation.

Performance Measurement

ObjectivesTraffic LightOutcomes
Identified Sponsors for Camp FFIT ProgramIdentified 5 sponsors, with 2 from underrepresented groups
Identified volunteers / Task ForceVolunteers identified, however require 2 more members
Detailed budget presented to LeadershipBudget approved
Core ValuesTraffic Light123Comments
PeopleXCamp FFIT Program and sponsorships align with Organization’s Diversity & Inclusion Policy
CultureXCamp FFIT Program and sponsorship align with Organization’s Diversity & Inclusion Policy
DiversityXSponsorship of marginalized groups only meets minimum standards

1 - Exceeds Expectations
2 - Meets Expectations
3 - Fails Expectations

Overall: 1
The program exceeds expectations. There is still room for improvement with meeting higher targets incorporating more marginalized groups into sponsorship programs.

Step 5: Continuous Improvement

Thus far, we have walked through creating the recruitment objectives & goals while building an implementation plan based on said goals. This plan is also aligned with your fire service’s diversity & inclusion policies. An evaluation of the plan was conducted, identifying room for improvement. At this point, your organization will understand what is working against what is not and be able to create a continuous improvement plan.

Following through with objective 2 and its implementation plan, create a plan adjustment.

Plan Adjustment

Identified volunteers / Task ForceRun internal advertising / campaigns earlier to recruit volunteers and creating a task force. Ensure task force understand benefits of program
Meeting and/or exceeding marginalized sponsorshipReview Diversity & Inclusion Policies, including objectives and targets to ensure programs are aligned with meeting overall organization targets



Module 3.1: Creating a firefighting camp for young women

We have so much to gain in strengthening future candidates by offering them an initial training environment that is open and supportive where mistakes are expected and learned from. Supporting an individual’s confidence and ability to be successful in the fire service will hopefully lead to less struggles down the road. Women have pushed through on their own for a long time and no one knew what they dealt with. If we can mentor them through the tough stuff earlier, the better." – Allison Vickerd, First Class Firefighter, London, Ontario and Coordinator of Camp FFIT London 2014-2018

If your fire services objective is to increase the hiring of women and members of underrepresented groups into your department, then hosting a firefighter camp that targets women or members of underrepresented groups is one method of meeting your organization’s recruitment objectives. Here are some best practices to achieving this strategy.

1. Have a Vision.

Determine the following:

  • Type of program suitable for your department (e.g., station tours, visiting communications centre, trying out gear, training program culminating in live fire evolution)
  • Suitable participants (e.g., Age group or demographic groups)
  • Length and format of program (e.g., one-day introductory program or week-long course?)
  • Possible partnerships with other emergency services to share planning and resources

Note: Some smaller departments collaborate with other departments to offer a regional program. Programs can take a lot of planning effort to get off the ground, so build something sustainable and relevant based on the needs and available resources of your fire service.

2. Build a Team.

  • Obtain early support from leadership.
  • Invite probationary and newer firefighters to the planning process, encouraging them to become active role models and leaders.
  • Consider recruiting pre-service firefighters as volunteers, as they can serve as junior platoon leaders, equipment runners, and instructional assistants during the camps.
  • Encourage skill development by recruiting those in teaching or transitioning into training officer positions to build lesson and safety plans for the camp.

Note: Many potential participants may be the children of firefighters who work in your department, so involve those parent firefighters. They often become the most vocal and strongest advocates for the program as they see the personal growth in their child.

3. Offer Realistic and Challenging Evolutions.

  • Prepare to be surprised by the courage and risk-taking that young participants will take.
  • Give participants every opportunity to try, see, and feel tools by making everything hands-on. Sample training schedules are available in the Appendix.
  • Understand the importance of participants being exposed to mentors who are just like them – lifting and using the equipment – so they know they can do the same.
  • Limit the use of guest speakers, as past programs have shown that participants learn best when given the opportunity to learn directly from instructors during one-on-one or small group activities.

4. Create Partnerships

  • Funding assistance and sponsorship opportunities can help to reduce barriers for youth by subsidizing camp expenses and operations with little to no cost.
  • Engage the help of local businesses who may be willing to support your program through the donation of items such as meals, T-shirts, chair rentals, water bottles, and bunker gear.
  • Fire equipment suppliers and trainers may be willing to donate their time to teach participants how to use their tools.
  • Community organizations such as Boys and Girls Clubs, Girl Guides, groups supporting young women in the trades, and school boards can help to promote and sponsor participants.
  • Create partnerships with other municipal departments (such as recreation) to make camp a reality. They may be able to help with promotion, registration, and payment through their existing infrastructure enabling fire services to focus on what they do best: developing high-quality fire training.
  • Involve your local firefighter association or union as they likely have deep connections to community organizations and local businesses. Tap into the network of community relationships that associations have worked hard to establish.
  • Acknowledge all partnerships on your flyers, publications, and emails about the program.
  • Know that Fire Service Women of Ontario can support and back your program and connect you with people and resources to make your camp successful.

5. Remove Financial Barriers to Participation.

  • Attracting a wide variety of participants is only possible with a low to no cost program.
  • Consider offering food and transportation to participants and volunteers as well.
  • If your department lacks appropriately sized bunker gear, consider borrowing from a college pre-service program, as well as accepting used safety boots and gloves that you can reuse in future programs.

6. Be Authentic.

  • Build trust with participants. This is very important as they may be asked to perform tasks that they find frightening or uncomfortable.
  • Answer any questions truthfully about the training evolutions and be open to talk about anything.
  • Be transparent with participants about the harsh realities of the job, including the experiences of physical, emotional and mental health as well as harassment that many women often encounter.

7. Safety Must Be Your Number One Priority.

  • Gather relevant medical history of participants and brief all volunteers with health risk information. PAR-Q forms are used as a standard assessment tool and also see a sample camp application.
  • Brief all participants in the same manner any firefighter would be briefed regarding fireground safety precautions.
  • Use the duration of your program to appropriately pace and safely build your evolutions according to the skill development of your participants.

Assign a safety officer for the camp and have a complete medical response kit on hand.

8. Get Your Messaging Right in the Media.

  • Media is an important tool extending the value of your camp beyond the actual day of programming.
  • Local media want to cover this feel-good story and the value of images of capable women firefighters and their supportive male colleagues is immeasurable.
  • For bigger departments, work with your corporate communications division to ensure your messaging aligns with corporate policy. Have a dedicated photographer on hand so that the participants can focus on safe training and not be distracted by their phones.
  • The fire department may be challenged with the ever-changing world of social media communications, but recognize that your target demographic are experts on social media - so use these young people’s expertise.
  • Provide opportunities for this target demographic to help you create visual content that will connect your fire department with their peers and the public at large. The positive benefits of using social media will be obvious as friends and family comment and share the images of young women training in bunker gear. See sample poster in the Appendix.

9. Mentoring Doesn’t End at the Close of Camp.

  • While the focus tends to be on delivering a dynamic and safe program, it’s at the end of the camp that mentoring begins. Young women want to be connected to further training, education and potential career paths.
  • Determine if your program will offer continuing education bursaries or additional mentorship opportunities.
  • Many women firefighters rarely if ever get the opportunity to work directly with each other; the leadership and real-life networking opportunities available at camps are almost impossible to access for women. Use the camp to encourage their leadership and teaching skills.
  • Professional development, relationship building, and networking opportunities are another positive outcome of these camps for women on the job.

10. Measure your Success.

  • Consider the short- and long-term impacts of your program.
  • Prepare short evaluations that participants and volunteers can complete on the final day of programming to shape your approach for following initiatives.
  • Prepare a questionnaire that can examine how many participants return to their communities as volunteer or career firefighters, or in other emergency service roles. This can measure long-term success of your camp. Many young women also return to these camps as volunteers and mentors to the next generation.
  • Conduct follow up surveys with camp participants within the 1st, 3rd, 5th and even 10th year to assess program impact.

Module 3.1 Resources

See Appendix for additional planning documents not accessible on the internet.