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Cramahe firefighter joins Ontario council

By PETE FISHER, Northumberland Today

Cramahe Fire Department firefighter Sheri Fisher was voted as a board member of the Fire Service Women of Ontario at the annual general conference this past weekend in London, Ontario. Fisher has been on on the Cramahe Fire Department just over three years in Colborne, Ont. Pete Fisher/Northumberland Today/Postmedia Network

Cramahe Fire Department firefighter Sheri Fisher was voted as a board member of the Fire Service Women of Ontario at the annual general conference this past weekend in London, Ontario. Fisher has been on on the Cramahe Fire Department just over three years in Colborne, Ont. Pete Fisher/Northumberland Today/Postmedia Network

CRAMAHE TOWNSHIP - Sheri Fisher is believed to be the first female firefighter from Northumberland County to sit on the board of directors for Fire Service Women of Ontario.

Fisher was nominated by a member of the Ottawa Fire Service this weekend at the annual general meeting for FSWO in London and was voted in as one of the 13 directors on the board.

Fisher, 40, has been a volunteer part-time firefighter with the Cramahe Fire Department for three years.

Her brother is a full-time firefighter with the City of Vaughan and tried to push her into firefighting over the course of several years.

"I just wasn't sure if it was something I could do," she said. "That self-doubt kind of kicks in sometimes. It was just a matter of circumstances the way things played out because Cramahe was looking for new recruits and I wanted to have an opportunity to give back to my community. I wish I had have listened to my brother a number of years ago, but don't tell him that."

When Fisher first joined the department there was only one other female firefighter, but now there are five.

Fisher says from day one she was treated no differently by the male firefighters and that is something she fully expected and appreciates.

"When we're on the fire ground my job is the same as what the next persons is," she said. "Gender is off the table."

Looking back even 15 years ago having a woman on a fire department was nearly something that rarely happened.

"I feel really lucky to be part of a department right from the start I've had nothing but a positive experience," she said.

Fire Service Women of Ontario is an organization that started in 2009.

Its mandate is to encourage, empower and educate.

Though the organization is composed of mainly women firefighters, it is not limited to strictly women.

"The misconception is that it is just for women," Fisher said. "It is largely women who are there, but I have seen over the years the numbers growing of men who are attending because it's great training."

Cramahe Fire Department has five women on the service, but nine members of the department are on the FSWO.

"I wanted the opportunity to represent the volunteer side of the fire service," Fisher said.

All but one of the board members on the FSWO are full-time firefighters

Fisher went to her first FSWO conference with only a few months under her belt as a new member of the fire service. "I was nervous thinking what is it going to be about when I get there," she said. "Even intimidated to an extent because there were so many other strong women who have so much more years of experience. When I got there I felt totally welcomed and totally embraced by all the other women and people who were there and it helped me feel more confident in my abilities."

Now Fisher wants to pay it forward to others so it remains a great organization.

Women make up fewer than 4% of firefighters across Ontario, with Cramahe Fire Department achieving a higher than average of 26%.

"We're trying to get it out there to show young girls that this is an option if they want to choose it," Fisher said.

Cramahe Fire Department ran a program in August for your girls called Camp LIFT (Ladies in Firefighter Training) which gave girls the chance to see what it is like and what's needed for a woman to become a firefighter.

Fisher firmly believes to be a firefighter both men and women should be able to perform the same tasks.

"There is no adjustment," she said. "When you're out there on the fire ground there is not going to be an adjustment. You either can do it, or you cannot. We're not men firefighters, we're not female firefighters - we are firefighters"

pfisher@postmedia.com

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