University of Notre Dame hires first female firefighters in history

NOW: University of Notre Dame hires first female firefighters in history

NOTRE DAME, Ind.-- Chirsti Shibata and Michelle Woolverton are The University of Notre Dame Fire Department’s newest additions.

They're making history by becoming the first full-time female firefighters in the departments 140-year history.

“it’s pretty amazing," said Woolverton.

“Amazing, but doesn’t feel anything different in the same respect. We get treated the same, we work the same. It’s just something new. It’s new for us and its also new for the guys here," said Shibata.

Founded in 1879, the Notre Dame Fire Departent is the first and oldest university fire department in the nation.

Hiring the first female firefighters speaks to the department’s progression.

When it first opened, Notre Dame brothers and fathers responded to calls, then students, and now, the civilian firefighters we have today.

“Ourselves included in that. It’s amazing to be a part of just that type of history," said Shibata.

“They’re fitting in tremendously. We’re ready to change with the times. It’s a great addition to us. They bring great resources and things that will help us enhance our work here at the university," said NDFD Assitant Chief, Tim Hoppner.

According to the national fire protection association, women represent only about seven percent of all firefighters nationwide.

So, these women have a message.  

As newly sworn in members of the fire service, both women will joins a small but growing number of female firefighters nationwide. They tell ABC57 they’re ready to protect and serve, but also show other women, they can do it too.

"The most important thing is don’t be afraid. I mean no matter your size or your gender, if you want to do it, go for it and don’t let nothing stop you," said Woolverton. 

“It is challenging but its one of the things we enjoy. That’s what we’re here to do. That’s what our passion is to really serve others when they need it most," said Shibata.

“I'm hoping by us being here we can set the field and change what we can," said Woolverton.

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