HOUSTON A six story building is on fire, and firefighters are plunging into the thick smoke to search for survivors.At least, that s what it looks like.

This is a drill, and the firefighters are all high school students.

More importantly, though, they re all girls.

Knowing there aren t a lot of women in the fire field, it made me want to try a new challenge for us, said 18-year-old Azalea Escobar.

Today, only 2.6 percent of Houston s firefighters are women and within the next five years, 60 percent of them will be eligible for retirement.

You do get a sense of isolation, said Kim Phillips, a Houston Fire Department engineer.

That s why Phillips helped organize Camp Houston Fire, a weekend-long training exercise for juniors and seniors in high school.

To show more women what a fantastic job this is, she explained. And the way to do that is to break down some stereotypes and build confidence in the young ladies.

The camp was put on by the HFD Sirens, an organization of the Houston Fire Department s women firefighters with some modest goals.

It s been a while since we ve hired a significant number of females and we know it s going to be a slow, steady process.

Their camp s first 21 students charged into a burning structure, scaled ladders, and performed a search and rescue operation.

It s like one of those once in a lifetime things. You won t find any of this anywhere else, said Jasenia Garcia, after helping pull a dummy from a smoke filled building.

Though still in high school, Garcia and her fellow classmates could be eligible to sign up with the Houston Fire Department in as little as two years.

It s so male dominated, said Ariana Arrambibe, who said she s now considering a future in firefighting.
I never thought I d actually be like, you know, maybe this would be cool to do.For real, for real.

Organizers are already planning their next camp for this fall. They ll be looking for 28 more women willing to give firefighting a shot.

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