Pam Wilson has been serving as a volunteer firefighter with the Pelham Fire Department for the past three years. NATE SMELLE PHOTO

Pelham’s only female firefighter encourages more women to join


As the only woman serving as a volunteer firefighter in Pelham, Pam Wilson is honoured to do her part in making the community a safer place to live. Despite the disproportionate male-to-female ratio, Wilson said joining the department was not intimidating for her because she was use to taking on roles that were traditionally dominated by men. For instance, when Wilson was younger, she competed as a member of the women’s national wrestling team.

“When you see a woman doing a role that they are not expected to be doing, something changes or adjusts in your mind and it opens up a door,” said Wilson.

“Before they see it, they may not think it would be something available to them. Just seeing a woman in a firefighter’s uniform can inspire young women to realize they can do anything they choose.”

To help raise awareness of fire safety and prevention, a cardboard cutout of Wilson in her full firefighting gear is currently on display at the Pelham Public Library.

Wilson said the department currently has about 40 active volunteers. The diversity of this group is a strong asset, she explained, because each member brings a unique skill-set to the table. Working as a chiropractor in St. Catharines, Wilson’s knowledge and skill in health care complement her abilities as a firefighter.

“I encourage women who might be interested in being a firefighter to think about joining,” she said.

“It’s challenging, but it is super exciting and rewarding. It’s also very humbling because you need to learn how to do a lot of different things.”

Having joined the department three years ago, she has gone through extensive training. In this time, she has learned how to fight fires, perform emergency response first aid and rescue, follow protocol with radio communications and several other fire safety skills.

Wilson said she is looking forward to getting her license to drive the fire trucks next.

“There is so much to learn,” she said.

“That’s why I really admire lieutenants and officers because to them it’s ingrained in their memory, even though they don’t do it every day. They might be sitting down having dinner, and then all of a sudden, they have to jump up and run to an emergency situation. They really have to move quickly and remain cool, calm and collected with what they are doing. They are really good at that and I want to get there.”

No matter what hour of the day her pager goes off, Wilson said she must be ready to go. As demanding as being a volunteer firefighter is, she enjoys the work and is proud to serve the community. She sees every call as an opportunity to help others.

Wilson recalls the first time she had to do CPR on someone as being one of the most memorable moments of her life. This moment was also, when she realized how important the role was she had taken on.

“The first time I did CPR was fantastic because the person came back,” said Wilson.

“Unfortunately, that’s not the norm, and that’s hard to deal with. It gets easier and easier with experience. The more times you have to deal with situations like that, the more comfortable you are when you are in that kind of situation.”