In a field traditionally seen as one for men, a crew of female firefighters is hosing down the stereotypes.
The West Carter County Fire Department has the first all-female duty in the region.
The four women that make up the shift are Ashley Perdue and her mother Carol Jones, Amber Hubbard and Krysten Kelch.
As a volunteer fire department, all the women work other full-time jobs outside of their commitment to the station.
These women are on the front lines of fighting fire in Carter County, proving that the job is not just for men.
“You just have to know what you can do and what you can’t do and as long as you know that? The sky is the limit,” says Perdue.
The four women stay overnight at the station when they are on-call for what they fondly call “girl’s night.”
“It’s a different bond. And we’ve really enjoyed that,” says Jones.
The women respond and work as a team when a fire or tragic event happens in the county. They say though it is very hard work, it is rewarding.
“The thought process is, ‘Lord protect me but give me the strength to do what I’ve gotta do,'” says Hubbard.
When it comes to the job, fires do not discriminate; neither does the department.
“They don’t look at us as beneath them, or say ‘oh they can’t do that,’ they’re like ‘get in here help me do this,'” says Hubbard.
They describe the atmosphere at the fire hall as one big family.
“All of the guys here are really supportive. I mean, they cheer harder for us than they do anybody else,” says Perdue.
They say they are proof that women can do anything.
“What I wanted to do was be a firefighter growing up,” says Kelch.
For the mother-daughter duo of Perdue and Jones, the passion for fighting fire runs deep in their family.
Perdue’s father, Jones’ husband, is the chief of the station. Jones grew up in a firefighting family as well.
“We’ve been doing it for as long as I can remember!” says Perdue. “Male or female, it’s scary when you put on that air pack or when you crawl around in the dark and can’t see or can’t breathe.”
For all four women, showing young girls that they can become anything they set their minds to is important.
“Just because you’re a woman doesn’t mean you can’t do it,” says Hubbard.