Saskatoon Fire Department appoints 1st female assistant chief, working to address gender gap

In a historic day in Saskatoon, the first female assistant fire chief has been appointed to the Saskatoon Fire Department (SFD) after efforts from the department to bring on more women.

“For the last 25 years, I’ve been preparing every day for this position. I’m really looking forward to the challenges ahead,” said Yvonne Raymer, who steps into the role April 1.

Raymer has worked with the SFD since 1995. In 2020, she said she’s proud of her accomplishments but does not want anyone thinking her gender is the reason she got the promotion.

“I think it’s just fabulous that I happen to be a woman,” she said.

“I don’t believe that I’m a token as a woman, I’ve earned this position and I’ve worked hard every day that I’ve been in this department.”

Raymer’s role as assistant chief will entail leading the department’s fire prevention team, communicating with the public and providing supports where needed.

Of the fire department’s nearly 340 staff, only 35 are women.

Raymer hired the SFD’s first female firefighter; now, she said many women have the over 20 years’ experience needed to step into leadership themselves.

“I think that you’ll see there’s going to be women that are going through commanding officer, they’re going to be lieutenant and captains and battalion chiefs,” she said.

“This is not just an opening because I got elected. I think it’s just where we are at in our career.”

The SFD says it’s working to address the gender gap in its workforce. One way: changing the physical test to become a firefighter. The department made it fairer for women.

“Those job requirements are based on the demands of the job, so it’s a difficult test,” explained Morgan Hackl, the city’s fire chief.

“We made sure it was fair and that was we are being equal for all people that apply for the fire service.”

Hackl said his department has worked since 2016 to hire more diverse staff through a number of initiatives, including more partnerships in the community, and school programs to help encourage more young women and girls to consider joining the fire department.

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