Washington Fire Department Experiences First All-Female Shift

While there aren't as many women in the fire service as there are men, Wilbur and Azure said they have been made to feel at home in District 6.
Firefighter Becky Azure (left) and acting Lieutenant Emma Wilbur (right). (Skagit County Fire District 6 photo, Facebook)

History for Skagit County Fire District 6

Kera Wanielista, Skagit Valley Herald, Mount Vernon, Wash.

(MCT)

May 7–Skagit County Fire District 6 celebrated Wednesday a first for the department: the first work shift with an all-female crew.

“I was so excited,” said firefighter Becky Azure, the driver for that day’s shift at the station west of Burlington.

While Azure and acting Lieutenant Emma Wilbur have worked together before, Wednesday was the first day in the department’s history that women made up the two-person crew scheduled for a shift.

Azure and Wilbur are not only co-workers, but they’re best friends.

“If we’re not here, we’re always together,” said Wilbur.

The pair, both 21, met in Skagit Valley College’s fire science program.

“She’s the one that got me to apply here,” Azure said. “It’s been fun ever since.”

Wilbur has been working for District 6 for about 3 1/2 years, she said. She is in the department’s residence program, meaning she lives at the fire station so that it can be manned 24 hours a day.

Azure has been with the department for about two years, she said.

While their time at District 6 has been relatively short, they have long had connections to firefighting: both have parents involved in local departments.

“I was raised in a fire station, pretty much,” said Wilbur, whose mother is a longtime firefighter in Snohomish County.

Wilbur, a Stanwood High School graduate, first became involved in firefighting when she joined a high school program that allowed teens to explore the fire service.

“I decided to go to EMT class instead of playing softball for my senior year,” she said. “I really fell in love with the job. I fell in love with every step of it.”

Azure’s stepfather was a battalion chief for Skagit County Fire District 19 in Marblemount, she said.

“He’s the one that got me into it,” Azure said.

The Concrete High School graduate began her career in the fire service as a firefighter intern with Seattle City Light’s fire service, she said.

“It’s being there for someone at the worst part of their life,” Azure said. “It’s fulfilling to know, wow, somebody called me to go help them.”

While there aren’t as many women in the fire service as there are men, Wilbur and Azure said they have been made to feel at home in District 6.

“They’re like family,” Azure said. “They treat us like sisters. It’s like having another home away from home.”

In fact, as the only two women in the department, they feel as if they have something special to offer. Sometimes, they said, those in need of help feel more comfortable talking to them.

“This job really is the best job in the entire world,” Wilbur said. “You’re never going to have the same day twice.”

Both women are hoping to advance their careers by becoming full-time firefighters and would like to also become paramedics – even if they can’t do so in the same department.

“We’ll always be friends, whether or not we work together,” Wilbur said.

– Reporter Kera Wanielista: 360-416-2141, kwanielista@skagitpublishing.com, Twitter: @Kera_SVH, facebook.com/KeraReports

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