Fighting Fire: A Personal Story

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Caroline Paul was among the first dozen women to join the San Francisco Fire Department, nearly a decade ago. A Stanford graduate, she was a film student when a chance encounter and her own curiosity led her to see whether she could pass the rigorous qualifying tests for the fire department. Somewhat to her own surprise, she soon found herself a "probie" working hard to learn her job in one of the most traditionally male-identified professions there is. She tells of the physical dangers and psychological ...
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Overview

Caroline Paul was among the first dozen women to join the San Francisco Fire Department, nearly a decade ago. A Stanford graduate, she was a film student when a chance encounter and her own curiosity led her to see whether she could pass the rigorous qualifying tests for the fire department. Somewhat to her own surprise, she soon found herself a "probie" working hard to learn her job in one of the most traditionally male-identified professions there is. She tells of the physical dangers and psychological pressures of the job, the camaraderie and deep loyalty of the department, the satisfaction of a difficult job well done, and the inevitable tragedies that come with being a firefighter. And threaded through all the tales of risk and rescue is the story of one young woman who comes to true adulthood with the realization that she is where she wants to be, doing the work she was meant to do: fighting fire.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Paul intended to enroll in film school after getting her degree from Stanford University in 1986; that is, after she competed in the U.S. Nationals as a member of the women's luge team and after trying to run the Boh River in Borneo. Instead, she was recruited to join the San Francisco Fire Department. She passed the written and physical exams but delayed joining until 1988. This is her story of learning to adapt to a different way of life, with its own rules, traditions, and language. And, as Paul describes it, she followed a rocky road to being accepted by the men in the various fire houses in which she worked along the way. Some of them were not at all reticent about expressing displeasure or outright hostility toward her as a rookie but particularly as a woman. Yet she demonstrated that she was capable of doing any task she was assigned. This is a rare, fascinating look at the inner workings of an urban fire department, with plenty of thrills, adventure, and raw emotion. Between the quality of Paul's writing and the subject matter, her book will keep readers on edge until the very last page. Highly recommended for public and academic libraries.Lisa S. Nussbaum, Euclid P.L., OH
School Library Journal
YA-When Paul graduated from Stanford, her degree in journalism and her application to graduate school seemed to indicate a career path other than the one she actually took. On the spur of a moment, she decided to apply for a position as a firefighter and go through the testing and training required, planning to use the firsthand information as material she could talk and write about. She then chose on firefighting as a career. Her journalistic training results in a readable writing style that's filled with description and action. Important moments become alive with emotion and clearly defined details; the dangers inherent in the job, as well as the courage and bravery and physical and mental strength are all in evidence. The author is quick to point out the many difficulties about being a female firefighter, along with the positive aspects. Not only must she continually prove to her coworkers that she can indeed do the job well; she must also prove it to herself. Her easy-to-read narrative that's filled with real action and true situations should appeal to young adults. Paul presents herself and all firefighters, male or female, as dedicated professionals who put their lives on the line everyday.-Pam Johnson, Fairfax County Public Library, VA
Kirkus Reviews
This memoir of one of the first women to penetrate the all-male bastion of the San Francisco Fire Department offers the story of one womanþs education in political consciousness and personal discovery. It also provides valuable insights into the life and day-to-day dangers facing a metropolitan firefighter. Stanford University graduate and aspiring filmmaker Paul cannot account for her desire to become a firefighter. Her motivations are deeply seated in some primordial fascination with one of natureþs most mysterious elements as well as with a strong desire to prove that she could do something virtually everyone believed she couldnþt. Emerging from a genteel, upper-middle-class family, steeped in the '80s lifestyle of healthy habits, committed to trendy social causes, and gorgeous (her identical twin lands a part as a Baywatch þBabeþ), Paul is an unlikely candidate for one of the most physically and mentally demanding professions in the world. Nevertheless, she works her way through the training and probationary period, past male chauvinist resistance, and finally earns her stripes as a reliable member of an engine crew and then as an heroic part of a rescue squad. Along the way, she earns a graduate degree in film, has at least one or two serious relationships, and still finds time to campaign against the illegal imprisonment of her brother, who has been incarcerated for his militant animal rights activities. The narrative is repetitive and sometimes slowed by sophomoric sociological and psychological observations and a plethora of inexcusable grammatical errors. It is also marred by a herky-jerky sentence style that extends to an episodic, anecdotalstructure. But the memoir eventually rises above such flaws to offer an outstanding account of one womanþs struggle to prove her personal worth and courage and to make her place in a world previously reserved exclusively for men. (First serial to Reader's Digest; Book-of-the-Month Club/Quality Paperback Book Club featured alternate selection; author tour)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312185817
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 4/1/1998
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 6.51 (w) x 9.71 (h) x 1.04 (d)

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