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All-women Milwaukee fire crew makes history on their shift

Posted at 9:00 PM, Nov 21, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-21 23:19:31-05

For the first time in the history of the Milwaukee Fire Department, an all-female crew took to the streets.

The crew did not even realize the significance of what they were doing until a picture they posted on Facebook went viral.

The crew of five women ended up working together on November 8 at a fire house on Milwaukee's north side. 

"The first thing that I said to them is, 'Ladies we are going to work hard today. We are going to have fun today. But we don't have anything to prove,'" said Captain Sharon Purifoy.

Three of the women were the only female graduates from their academy class in 2013.

"When we were cadets we dreamed about the day we could all work together. And then as recruits they put us on an all female team and we said, 'It's possible, we can do this,'" said firefighter Jessica Olson.

When they learned a few schedule switched meant they would be working together. They just thought it was just a good day.

"We've all been close for awhile, it's always fun to work with your friends," said firefighter Melanie Madden. 

"For all of us to work together on the same day, oh yeah that was wonderful. I was excited," said Lt. Belinda Bradley.

They snapped a picture of their female crew in between calls and posted it on Facebook. That's when it took off. And when someone told them they were the first.

"People were saying, 'This is history. This is amazing. I want to show my grandchildren,'" said firefighter Kendria Donaldson.

But it was also a surprise since women have been firefighters for decades in the city. Part of the reason might be because only 3-percent of Milwaukee's 700 firefighters are women.

That number has dropped since Bradley went through the academy in 2004. She said there were 50 when she graduated. Today there are 25. She and the others hopes their picture inspires other women to think about joining.

"I think we said girl power about 100 times that day," said Purifoy.