Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Woman Douses Bias, Climbs Ladder of Fire Department

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Woman Douses Bias, Climbs Ladder of Fire Department

Article excerpt

Debra Jarvis has spent 17 years fighting both fires and the prejudice that holds that women can't succeed in the male-dominated world of firefighting.

Jarvis, 42, poured cold water on that prejudice Monday when she realized a longtime dream and took over as the fire chief in Homewood, a southern suburb of Chicago.

She became the first woman in memory to serve as a full-time fire chief in Illinois and one of just a handful in the nation.

Although she says frankly that she has run into sexism along the way, she adds that she has also been helped by male mentors in her climb up the career ladder.

"I'm not going to say that I haven't had problems, but the things that have been the roughest have been times when I've had a `poor-me' attitude," she said.

Jarvis was running a crafts shop when she decided she wanted to be a firefighter. She asked the Pike Township department in suburban Indianapolis to make her a volunteer firefighter.

Despite the township's need for firefighters, she was turned down at first. …

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