Fire camp in El Segundo aims to inspire young girls to become firefighters

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (KABC) -- As the city of Los Angeles swore in its first female Fire Chief, a similar glass ceiling shattered last fall, when El Segundo promoted a woman battalion chief to fire chief, a first in the South Bay.

On Saturday and Sunday, El Segundo Fire Chief Deena Lee is holding a camp in the city of El Segundo, to show teenage girls what it's like to be a firefighter.

Lee likes what she sees on the field -- young women training to be firefighters.

"If I can do it at 33 years old, anyone can do it," Lee said. "And I want to give the girls an opportunity to get started."

Nearly 20 years after becoming a firefighter, the former battalion chief became the first woman fire chief in the South Bay last fall.

This 2-day free fire camp for girls ages 13 to 19 was one of the first items on her to-do list.

"My mission is to make it better for women that are going to come after me," added Lee.

No better way to do that than this camp, which Chief Lee plans to hold annually so young women can begin to think differently about what's possible.

"I was going to be a nurse and they said you should try firefighting," said Lee. "It never occurred to me. I was 29-years-old, and they said, 'do some ride-alongs with us,' and I did ride-alongs with every station in Long Beach and I just loved it."

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Her passion may be what inspires one firefighter's daughters to follow in his footsteps. All three of them are out here this weekend.

"This is a career I thought would be amazing," said El Segundo firefighter Jason Northgrave. "Everyone loves this job that has this job, so I went after it. It's the greatest job. It's the best."

Northgrave has been fighting fires for three years now after a career change from a businessman. His daughters' support never wavered.

"Proud of him," said Abrielle Northgrave.

"I'm excited to see what it's all about and see him at work, too, and just be able to experience everything that he's so passionate and proud of," Rayanna Northgrave said.

"I just want to be like my dad," added Jalyce Northgrave. "And I want to get stronger."

And after some of the training Saturday, the respect goes both ways when asked if they might follow his firefighting path.

"They might, they could," said Northgrave. "They probably would be better than daddy so."

And thanks to all of the strong female firefighters leading the way at this camp, becoming a firefighter doesn't seem impossible.

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