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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Female firefighters in wet T-Shirt row, joined Facebook petition to get new shirts

Female Firefighter

Mary Anne Berndt ... a female RFS member has joined a chorus of complaints regarding their yellow uniform shirt top which is see-through when wet. Pic: Adam Ward Source: The Daily Telegraph

A WET T-shirt controversy has broken out among female firefighters who have complained their new Rural Fire Service shirts become see-through when wet.

More than 600 volunteers joined a Facebook petition to object to the issuing of the bright yellow shirts to replace existing navy blue ones.

Women complained that when they sweat, handle leaking hoses, wash or fill their trucks and even when it rains, their male colleagues can see through their new shirts.

"Most women aren't too happy about it. We're not doing the job to be glamorous. We're not sex objects," Sydney volunteer Maryann Berndt, 34, said yesterday.

"You can get quite wet on the fire ground, you always get wet from leaking hoses or filling up the trucks."

In an email forwarded to Opposition emergency services spokeswoman Melinda Pavey, another female firefighter wrote: "I do not like the yellow long sleeved T-shirts for the fact that after you have rolled a few wet hoses or ended up with water all over you they become completely see-through.

"This isn't much of an issue for the guys but not so flattering for the girlies."

Ms Pavey said the shirts were issued to firefighters without consultation.

"It is demeaning there is no thought for women volunteers and what may happen if the shirts get wet. It shows a lack of respect for what women do in the RFS," Ms Pavey said.

There were dozens of posts on the Facebook petition site to save the blue drill shirts, including firefighters comparing the new all yellow look to the yellow member of the The Wiggles.

"RFS Wiggles," one member wrote.

Another wrote: "Hope this [petition] works. The yellow life saver shirts are bloody ugly."

An RFS spokesman said the shirts would be issued to volunteers free, unlike the navy ones which members have to pay for and which will remain for sale.

He added that while first yellow shirts issued were of thinner fabric, the next ones due to be issued would have pockets over the chest and would not be see through when wet.

"The colour yellow has been used due to its high visibility. Also, during independent testing in Alberta, Canada, it has been identified that the blue coloured clothing absorbs more heat," he said.