MARGATE – The city leads the way in the Downbeach area for providing women with the opportunity to work in a male-dominated field. The Margate City Fire Department now has three female firefighters, while Ventnor and Atlantic City each have one.
The department recently hired its third female firefighter through the State of New Jersey Civil Service system, which requires an applicant take a written test and pass/fail physical performance exam to get their name on an eligibility list of candidates.
Natalie Carlucci, 26, who is currently attending a firefighter academy, previously worked as teaching assistant in the William H. Ross Elementary School. She will complete training on Dec. 19.
“I’m a physical person, so it’s very cool for me to be able to take my athletic side and use toward a job that is helping people,” she said. “I played a lot of sports in high school and in college and coached a lot, so I am a team player. I believe the last person on the bench is just as important as the first person on the bench.”
Once her training is completed, she will take the oath of office as professional firefighter and start working morning and evening shifts.
Danyl Loyle has been a Margate firefighter for the last 14 years.
“Being in a male-dominated profession can be both positive or a negative depending on your perspective. To earn respect of your peers, you must prove yourself every day,” she said. “We are fortunate to work with a great group of guys who support us but we are always under a microscope.”
Loyle said she was required to cut her hair to attend the Atlantic City Fire Academy, a potentially discriminatory practice that is not followed anymore.
“I have never experienced any harassment,” Loyle said. “But I always tell everyone that to love this job you have to have a sense of humor and thick skin. We see not-so-nice stuff going on in the field every day, especially when people are undergoing traumatic events. One of my favorite things about the job is the humor and jokes. I can dish it as good as the guys.”
Being a firefighter has been a rewarding career, she said, but being a parent of a son, aged 12, and a daughter, 9, can be exhausting.
“I thank God I have a job where I can work at night,” she said.
Firefighters in Margate work two daytime shifts followed by two nighttime shifts every week.
“When I’m home, I’m always running around with the kids, the pets, cleaning, doing laundry and making dinner, so going to work can be less stressful sometimes,” she said.
She enjoys the downtime in the firehouse, but part of the job is to be connected to the other firefighters. Living arrangements in a firehouse are tight, and although a second restroom was added when the firehouse was renovated years back, both are unisex.
“We do everything together,” she said. “If a person has a problem sharing, this is not the job for you.”
Debbie Boyle, 51, is Margate’s longest serving female firefighter.
“I was the first paid firefighter in the area,” she said. “It was a big adjustment for everyone, including me.”
Although being the first female firefighter was “a big deal” in the beginning, but over the years, everyone has become accustomed to working together, she said.
One of the biggest challenges she has experienced on the job over the years is her height. At 5-feet, 1-inch tall she finds it challenging to climb ladders, she said.
“But I stay in shape by going to the gym and keep a focus on what has to be done on the job,” she said.
Boyle has a 25-year-old son who she raised on her own.
“He was five when I was hired, but I had lots of family support,” she said.
She grew up in Margate and she lived with her parents “so it all worked out for me.”
“I remember the day I walked in. Now the older guys are leaving and new firefighters are coming in. Where does the time go?” she said.
Boyle recommends women consider a career in firefighting or other public service job.
She was greatly influenced by her father, a retired Atlantic City firefighter, along with her uncle and five cousins who are firefighters, so working in the profession was a natural progression for her, she said.
“I’m the eighth in my family to choose this career,” Boyle said. “I have worked under three chiefs who each had their own way of doing things. I grew up with Chief Dan Adams, so I know him well, and was hired by John Kelly, so I am very grateful to him for hiring me.”
Boyle said she has tended several major fires over the years, although none were fatal, and all of Margate’s firefighters are certified emergency medical technicians, so she is often called on to administer lifesaving first aid.
“Seeing anyone’s life being devastated is hard to watch but helping people and saving lives is very rewarding. I also like the friendships I’ve made here. I work with a great group of guys and am friendly with their wives and children. It’s like having a firehouse family. We try to do things together and we have become close,” she said.
She will likely retire after 25 years of service, but what her future holds is still a mystery.
“I’ll wait and see where I am when I’m 57,” she said. “I still have six years to go.”
For more information about a career in firefighting under Civil Service rules, see www.state.nj.us/csc/authorities/faq/safety/firefighters.html#1