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Cambridge fire department gets first female acting platoon chief

After 20-years on the job, Marie Schaefer is happy to accept her new role and be a role model for young women hoping to be firefighters
Marie Schaefer is the first female acting platoon chief for the Cambridge Fire Department

Only 12 per cent of the firefighters working at the Cambridge fire department are female, and that's a number the local fire chief would like to change.

Promoting Captain Marie Schaefer to acting platoon chief, the first woman to take on the role in the Cambridge Fire Department, could help encourage more women to consider a career as a firefighter.

Schaefer has been working with the CFD for 20-years, receiving the accolade this past April and never imagined herself getting to this point when she first started.

She was the fourth woman hired in Cambridge at the time. Today they have 16 female firefighters out of 132.

"Cambridge is really progressive at hiring females and just the best people for the job," said Schaefer in an interview with CambridgeToday.

"I never felt the difference of being a female, just a firefighter like everybody else."

She said the firefighting crews and captains have always made her feel supported.

"The other day I had a female fire prevention officer come up and congratulate me and she said 'you don't know how much this truly means to all us females to have you in such a position.' I was so humbled by that comment. It's a big step for any firefighter to take. Male or female."

Her first shift as the new acting platoon chief is coming up August 10.

Schaefer will be responsible for what happens at active fire scenes, accounting for all the firefighters, keeping them safe, their tasks, locations and which other services need to be called to the scene.

She is responsible for making sure there are enough crews and firefighters on the scene to handle the incident.

"Everybody plays a big part in making it work. It's the support of the entire organization that makes me feel confident."

For her test, they created a simulated factory fire and she had to show if she could be an acting platoon chief.

Schaefer grew up with a competitive spirit, playing and coaching hockey.

"I think I've taken my leadership from coaching over the years and brought it into the fire department."

She attributes ascent through the ranks to her new position to having a supportive team around her, happy to see her move up the ladder.

"I think for many years, Cambridge has been at the forefront for inclusiveness, diversity and just making everyone feel that there are no barriers."

New hires for the fire department is based on skill, and Schaefer said that bar is set high.

She also gets support at home from her husband who is also a firefighter in Brantford.

Cambridge fire chief, Brian Arnold, is hoping their latest announcement will help inspire more young women to think about firefighting as a career.

"We're very proud of her. We know she will do the job well. It would be great to see more young women enter into firefighting and I hope this inspires them that they can."

Arnold has a goal of reaching 17 per cent for the number of women on The CFD the average for most trade industries.



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Justine Fraser

About the Author: Justine Fraser

Justine joined CambridgeToday in March of 2022 as a social issues reporter. She enjoys living in the city (and walking her giant white dog!). A camera is never far from her hand.
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