9 women join Orange County Fire Rescue, breaking record

Fire Chief Otto Drozd said Class 84 is shattering stereotypes

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – The sound of a glass ceiling breaking could be heard inside Valencia College Performing Arts Center on Friday night: the newest class of firefighter recruits in Orange County includes nine women.

Forty-one recruits walked the stage to embark on new careers in the county's fire service as Class 84.

Fire Chief Otto Drozd said Class 84 is shattering stereotypes.

"Class 84 includes the largest single recruitment of women firefighters on record for our department," Drozd said.

The female recruits showed serious girl power following intense rounds of training and grueling challenges. Samantha Free praised Orange County Fire Rescue for getting results and giving women a chance to distinguish themselves as firefighters.

"We can do anything we set our minds to, and we are lucky that we had nine girls," Free said. "Some of the classes only have one girl."

Free's father, Terry, embraced her with open arms and said his daughter commuted for months from Mount Dora to Orlando to complete the program.

"I knew she had it. She did it," Terry Free said.

Drozd said the women who graduated vary in age and background. The last graduating class had only one female firefighter.

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