Renovations take aim at a 63-to-1 gender gap among county firefighters

By Arielle Brumfield

Marina del Rey’s fire station will be getting a remodel to accommodate female firefighters

Wearing a Wonder Woman headband to drive home her message, Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn turned a routine board approval of upgrades to the Marina del Rey fire station into a principled stand for greater gender parity among the county’s firefighters.

Los Angeles County Fire Station No. 110 on Admiralty Way will be getting a $900,000 remodel that includes new dorm rooms, lockers, fixtures, partitions and restroom facilities to fulfill Americans with Disabilities Act requirements and accommodate female firefighters.

The county will start looking for a project architect on Aug. 1, and a 10-month construction schedule is expected to begin in May or June of next year.

In the meantime, Hahn and her three female colleagues on the five-member county board — each of whom also donned Wonder Woman headbands during the July 11 board discussion — are pressuring county fire officials to redouble their efforts to recruit qualified female firefighters.

Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl Osby told the board the department is working on it but has a long way to go, reporting that only 45 of the county’s 2,866 firefighters are women, about 1.5%.

Of the county’s 172 fire stations, only about 50 are presently able to accommodate female firefighters, he said.

“I think that we can look at a bigger picture here. It’s upsetting to me that in 2017 we are only getting around to making accommodations for women in our fire departments,” Hahn said. “And, what’s more, this could be an empty gesture if we don’t actually hire women into the fire department to work at these stations.”

Osby told the board he plans to activate a recruitment unit to update the department’s employment outreach strategies and is working to establish a 10-year infrastructure plan to bring other stations into compliance with remodels similar
to what’s slotted for the station in Marina del Rey.

Union officials back that effort.

“We’re at 1% with women in the fire service. We should be at a 4% or 5% rate,” said Los Angeles County Fire Capt. Dave Gillotte, president of the Los Angeles County Firefighters Union.

Unlike L.A. County fire stations, all Los Angeles city fire stations are currently able to accommodate female firefighters.

That means L.A. County has some serious catching up to do, said Hahn, whose district includes Marina del Rey and Playa del Rey.

“We can and must do better,” said Hahn, “and I think my fellow Wonder Women
on the board will agree with me.”