Lorraine Madden has served in array of positions in the Bowers Beach Fire Company. She has been a ladies auxiliary member, an EMT, an ambulance driver and in the early 1960s she even volunteered on the first all-women’s fire crew.
It was in 1967 when a small grass fire was started in Bowers. It was the middle of the day and the men in town were all away at work. A group of women attempted to fight the fire, but quickly realized they didn’t know how to operate the pumps and hoses on the fire truck.
Those women quickly realized that if something more than just a grass fire came up there needed to be someone there to fight it. During work hours the firefighters were all out of town working and so the women decided they needed to be trained to fight fires so the town wouldn’t be entirely dependent on the men.
A Bowers native, Tammy Fields, whose aunt and grandmother were two of the original female firefighters, recently created a book for the fire company’s 75th anniversary, and of course designated a section to the history of the lady firefighters.
A group of five women − Lorraine Moyer, her daughter Lorraine Madden, Emma Shahan, Toni Worthing and Shirley Achtenberg − were trained by Madden’s father Fire Chief John Moyer and a few other men from the station. The group eventually took on between six and eight members and came to be known as Bowers’ Fearless Feminine Firefighters.
“They showed us how to work the pumps, drive the truck, how to get the hoses off and how to place ladders,” said Madden, who is the only surviving member of the five original women.
Madden has fire service in her blood. Her father was fire chief for 20 years and her mother was part of the auxiliary and later went on to be the first female ambulance captain in the state, said Madden.
“I was raised right behind the fire house,” she said. “When the alarm went off Mom and Dad went over there and we had to follow.”
Madden joined the ladies auxiliary as soon as she was able, which was just 15 years old. She drove an ambulance for the first time at 16.
“There was a man that lived at the end of Bowers Road and any time my parents weren’t there and someone needed the ambulance I would drive it to the end of Bowers Road and he would take over,” she said.
By the age of 19 she was married and pregnant with her first child and donned a fire suit and manned a hose with her fellow Bowers Fearless Feminine Firefighters. Madden said her fellow feminine fighters watched out for her though, they never let her be right in front while she was pregnant.
Page 2 of 2 - the ladies of Bowers were the first official women’s fire crew in the state, according to Madden. She brushes off the women’s step forward for feminism with a few little words.
“It was no biggie,” she said. “The men were there for us when we needed them and so we were there for them.”
Madden and the other ladies were there when they were needed through the early 1970s. Madden continued her work for the fire company and is coming up on 50 years of service this December. She worked as an EMT in the late 60s and early 70s. She also rose through the ranks and became president of the state auxiliary in 2010, a process that takes between 14 and 15 years to complete.
“It was something that my mother always wanted to do,” Madden said.
Today’s ladies at Bowers recognize the contribution made by those in the past.
“Without a doubt they helped break the stigma that firefighting was just for men,” said Fields.