Peng Juan was born in 1991 in Xiangxiang, a city administered by Xiangtan, in central China's Hunan province. She is the only woman firefighter assigned to the firehouse on Ji'an Road, in Xiangtan. Peng works as hard - and is every bit as brave - as her male counterparts. Because she wears a blue uniform when she is on duty, Peng is referred to as "a blue rose blossoming in fire."
A woman firefighter does not retreat
"Juan, buddy, come on!" During training in Xiangtan, members of a firefighting team encourage Peng, the only female member of her team. "They used to call me 'Sis Juan,' but now, they prefer to call me 'buddy,' the same way as they call each other. I think the change means they have fully accepted me and approved of my ability like my male counterparts," Peng says.
Peng joined the army in 2009. In the past, she was a clerk, who sat in an office all day, and who tapped a computer's keyboard as she dealt with the daily clerical work related to a firehouse. In February this year, Peng applied to become a firefighter assigned to the station on Ji'an Road, in Xiangtan.
'A Blue Rose Blossoming in Fire'
Peng Juan poses for a photo in front of a firefighting truck.
After they heard about Peng's decision, many of her relatives and friends doubted whether a woman could endure the hardship of being a firefighter. After all, firefighters often risk their lives on the job. Her critics thought the job would be too dangerous, and, thus, not suitable for Peng. However, Peng said, "Women firefighters can fulfill the mission as well as men. In fact, we have women firefighters in various places across China."
To improve her physical conditioning, and to catch up with her teammates in daily training, Peng asked the trainer to design a personal-training plan for her. Although she was exhausted, and her body ached each day after training, Peng refused to stop. Instead, she spent extra hours training. The end result? Her body grew stronger.
"At the very beginning, I found it was difficult to finish every day's training assignment. But, every time, I strived to complete my assignment, and to get a better score on a test. I was so happy for myself. I started to love more the daily life in our firehouse," Peng recalls.
'A Blue Rose Blossoming in Fire'
Attentive to her buddies
In addition to improving her physical conditioning, Peng studies examples of successful fire rescues. She takes notes to help her grasp the information needed for arranging a rescue mission. She learns from experienced firefighters how to arrange a team to complete a rescue more safely and efficiently.
Once the fire alarm sounds, all of the firefighters must be in turnout gear and ready to roll within a minute. Peng has practiced - more than 1,000 times - getting into her turnout gear in under a minute. "The more quickly I put on my gear, the sooner we can arrive at the fire. Every second matters. What I can do is to practice more and raise my speed, so my teammates and I can save people trapped in fire as fast as we can," Peng explains.
Due in part to the outbreak of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) this year, many of the firefighters did not gather with their families during the Spring Festival holiday. Peng chatted with those firefighters, to help reduce their homesickness. She suggested members of her team make dumplings together during weekends, so they would feel like they were with their families.
In Peng's opinion, as long as she is wearing her blue uniform, she should be ready - anytime - to fight a fire. "I am lucky that, in my youthful years, I have had precious opportunities to wear my military uniform, and then my firefighter's uniform. I want to be a person who protects others and who gives others the bright and warm hope," Peng says.
Photos Supplied by Xiangtan Firefighting
(Women of China English Monthly September 2020 issue)