The Pensacola Fire Department this week welcomed six new fire cadets, including the first females hired by the department in some 16 years.

Rachael Ozan and Stephanie Spaar are among the new cadets who began training at the Fire Academy on Monday. This group of cadets will be the first class to complete their training at the George Stone Technical Center, which enables fire cadets to train locally.

Only about 7 percent of American firefighters are women, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Not counting the new cadets, there are five women in the ranks of the Pensacola Fire Department, including Ginny Cranor and Annie Bloxson, who were named the department’s first female battalion chiefs in 2016.

Chief David Allen says bringing the cadet program back as a recruitment tool last year has allowed the department to hire more local applicants who want to live and work in Pensacola, as well as to increase the diversity of the department to better reflect the community. The program provides the education cadets need to become a certified firefighter and pays them for on-the-job experience. Since February, eleven cadets have completed the program and joined the Pensacola Fire Department as professional firefighters.

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