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Fighting fires with feminine ferocity o« at I | £ i/> i By RANDY EVANS/Photos by CARL VOSS o • J> O ne day recently, nine Davenport fire fighters were rolling up the yards of hoses that had been snaked across a Davenport street during a fire department training exercise. Sweat glistened on their faces as they worked under the hot rays of the afternoon sun. There was something else on the face of one fire fighter, however — blue eye shadow and a touch of pinkish cosmetic "blush" on the cheeks. It was Sharon lossi, 23, of the Davenport Fire Department, believed to be the first female professional fire fighter in Iowa. When lossi went to work at the fire department last Apr. 5, taking her place on a force that has 132 men and two female secretaries, there were people — Including some firemen — who questioned whether a woman had any business being a fire fighter. They wondered whether she could handle the physically demanding work of firemen. They were concerned about the potential for problems from a woman working — and sleeping — alongside men. (Fire fighters in Davenport are on duty for 24 hours and then have 48 hours off.) But lossi (pronounced "Yo-see"), at 5 feet 7 inches and 130 pounds, sailed through the physical fitness test applicants had to pass, something some men have not been able to do. She jogs five miles a day to stay in shape, and she has demonstrated her strength several times for firemen by ripping the inch- thick Quad-Cities telephone directory in half with her hands. Fire department officials said there have not been the problems they envisioned when lossi first signed on. She has won acceptance from the men, officials said, with her enthusiasm a n^ eagerness to learn. "I'd have to be truthful," Fire Chief Howard Goettsch said. "I was a little apprehensive how things would work out But she's doing the job." Lt William Bishel said lossi's personality has contributed to her acceptance. "If she had a different personality, a women's libber, for instance, that would have caused resistance," be said. "And if she had been a southern belle type, that wouldn't have gone over either." But having a woman around previ- ously all-male territory has produced a few situations to chuckle about For instance, District Chief Darrell Doss, a veteran of 31 yean in the Davenport Fire Department and a man of little modesty, brought pajamas from home to wear in the large, barracks-like bedroom shared by all fire fighters - lossi included. The pajamas have since been returned to his home. They caused too many problems when an alarm would come in and the chief had to jump into his boots and pants. "When the bell rings, everybody is in such a hurry that they don't have time to look around," be said. But Doss and the other men still suffer from occasional jitters when they are in the bathroom that adjoins the bedroom at Davenport's Central Fire Station. To reach the bedroom, lossi either has to walk through the bathroom or climb up one of the two brass fire poles. The shower and stool stalls have doors, but the two urinals are open, setting the stage for occasional "close calls," such as one Doss had recently when lossi was showing a woman around the fire station's living quarters. It was the opinion of the Davenport city legal department that the fire department wasn't required to provide separate sleeping quarters for women, Chief Goettsch said. lossi has one of the 14 beds in the room, but she uses separate toilet facilities that were first provided for the department's two secretaries. Sleeping attire ranges from the jogging shorts and jersey worn by lossi, to undenhorts, with "T" shirts, sweatshirts or no shirts, worn by the men. lossi has sought no special treatment and fire department officials have offered none. In fact, she wants to be treated as "one of the guys." "I look at her as I do at all the other fire fighters," Doss said. "If she makes a mistake, I chew her out just like the During the recent training exercises, lossi had to lug the 60-pound rolls of fire hose, drag hoses to fire hydrant* and wrestle a special "deluge" nocde that weighs about 100 pounds off the back of one of the pumper tracks. She also took « turn behind >» lotsl gets tome help from Capt Jack Grtpp during • training union after becoming the first female In the Davenport Fire Department. Above: Like everyone else In the department, lossi takes her turn behind the wheel of a fire engine that has five forward and one reverse speeds. Far left: Husband Mark lossi visits Sharon at the fire station. "Whatever makes her the happiest Is fine with me," says Mark of his wife's job. Left Everyone helps with the dinner dishes. Lending tossl a hand are Bob Noel (left) and John Wllharber.