Sharp drop in female firefighters; New condition test not discriminating, says fire department

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Firefighters' gear (Picture: Wikimedia Commons/Muffet). Firefighters' gear (Picture: Wikimedia Commons/Muffet)

The number of female firefighters, both professional and volunteer, decreased significantly over the past year. This year there are 25 percent less volunteer and 10 percent less professional female firefighters. A new, more intense condition test and changes within the corps are to blame, according to the federation for volunteer firefighters VBV, NOS reports. 

Volunteer firefighter Jorien Traas filed a complaint with the College of Human Rights after twice failing the new condition test, despite hard training. According to her, the test is discriminating because it does not take differences between men and women into account. The condition test looks at the physical and emotional capabilities of firefighters, NU.nl reports.

The fire department does not consider the test discriminatory, a spokesperson for Brandweer Nederland said to NU.nl. The test was compiled after research by the Coronel Institute and in consultation with employers, employees, experts and federations, the fire department said.

The condition test is set to ensure safety, Brandweer Nederland chairman Stephan Wevers said to the newspaper. "The safety of the individual, colleagues and ultimately the citizens." Firefighting is a very strenuous job and firefighters must be in top physical and emotional condition. According to Wevers it is "physically and mentally taxing and not completely without risk." Fitness is "crucial", he said.

VBV finds it unrealistic that the fire department no longer considers the differences between men and women, and people's weight and height. "People have more talents than just the physical", chairman Marcel Dokter said to NU.nl. "We found the old test better." He points out that professional firefighters have 24 hour rosters in which exercise is included. "Volunteers must keep up their physical condition in addition to their own work. The people who don't pass the test are now left with the trash."

The College for Human Rights will rule on Traas's complaint in four to six weeks. 

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