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Sierra Vista Fire & Medical Services hosts Camp Spark for local girls interested in becoming a firefighter

Posted at 4:24 PM, Jun 18, 2024

SIERRA VISTA, Ariz. (KGUN) — According to the National Fire Protection Association, in 2020 9% of the firefighters in the U.S. were female, which is why Sierra Vista Fire & Medical Services is hosting a camp that will allow teen girls to learn what takes to be a firefighter.

In its first year, the camp is already full — showing local fire departments that girls are up to the challenge.

“We’re so beyond excited for it,” said Engineer Paramedic for the department, Michelle Knodle. “It's all about the opportunity for everybody, you know, the excitement, the connection, the family life that's part of the fire service. It doesn't have to be just guys. There's a lot that we offer for the job.”

She says the camp is something the department has wanted to do for a while, to help grow the number of women in the industry. Knodle is one of four female firefighters in Sierra Vista's department; half of the team's EMTs are female.

"I know a lot of younger females are scared," Knodle said. "They think of firefighters, EMS, that kind of job, and they're not sure that they could ever do it. So we want to be able to show everybody that they can.”

She also wants them to see how a fire department supports one another, no matter their gender.

“It's a challenge, but at no point did anybody try to tell me that I couldn't do it," Knodle said. "If I had struggles along the way, somebody would say, 'hey, let's help you'.”

The one-day camp is designed to show teens what EMTs and firefighters do by showing them equipment and giving them hands-on experience.

“If they've ever been interested in it, to show them that the females can do it," Knodle said. "Even though we are a little bit smaller, there's 100% that we can do—all of the aspects of the job.”

Her daughter is attending the camp, to see if she want to follow her footsteps.

“Growing up and watching her do it, I feel like it was pretty cool and I just want to see what it was like,” Sunseray Rothbauer said.

But for Ashley Pickett, seeing other women do what her dad does makes her want to give it a try.

“Seeing all the women (makes me think), okay, I can be them,” she said.

In July, 21 girls will participate in the first Camp Spark—making the camp full for this year. However, the department is already planing to grow the camp so more girls can attend.

“I'm really excited to see what the future years bring: to see how many girls, and how many days, we can expand it to,” said EMT, Ashley Kuriger.

Alexis Ramanjulu is a reporter in Cochise County for KGUN 9. She began her journalism career reporting for the Herald/Review in Sierra Vista, which she also calls home. Share your story ideas with Alexis by emailing or by connecting on Facebook.