Female firefighter trainees will get shower stalls

March 03, 1994|By Melody Simmons | Melody Simmons,Sun Staff Writer

Female firefighter trainees will get shower stalls and a new restroom at the 36-year-old Baltimore Fire Academy on Pulaski Highway after the Board of Estimates approved a $50,000 expenditure yesterday.

But the board didn't go far enough, said one of the three female firefighters in the Baltimore Fire Department.

"We need it in the firehouse, too," said Yvette Stanley, 33, who has been assigned to Engine Co. 21 on Roland Avenue for five years and showers only after battling a fire.

"You need separate [facilities]," she said. "Usually, I try not to take a shower unless there's a fire. I don't feel comfortable. But when I have to take a shower up there, I close the doors and let the guys know I'm in the bathroom so they don't come up."

Because there are no separate sleeping quarters for female firefighters, Ms. Stanley sleeps in the station's kitchen or TV room, or asks for the night watch to avoid having to sleep on a cot in an open area with male co-workers during the 4 p.m. to 7 a.m. shifts.

The city got its first female firefighter seven years ago and has added two others since then, said Battalion Chief Hector Torres, department spokesman.

During training at the academy, male trainees have access to four shower stalls, but females have to take sponge baths in two sinks in a ladies' room that was installed for a secretary, Ms. Stanley said.

Chief Torres said the new bathroom at the academy is a first step toward improving conditions for female firefighters.

"Unfortunately, a lot of fire stations are very old," he said. "Usually what happens is that the company will try to work around the situation. It's tough, but it boils down to economics."

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