TODAY   |  July 24, 2013

Unique summer camp recruits female firefighters

A fire camp in Arlington, Va., is designed to involve women in what has traditionally been a man’s world by giving teen girls a chance to handle the heat of firefighting. NBC’s Amna Nawaz reports.

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>> lot of kids are enjoying time at camp this summer. we found one in virginia where things are really heating up.

>> reporter: it's not your usual summer camp . just for girls, and fearless ones at that.

>> you will now.

>> reporter: at this fire camp in arlington, virginia, designed to recruit women to what's been a man's world by giving teens the chance to handle the heat.

>> this is a job that people believe should only be men because people still believe that men are stronger even though they aren't.

>> reporter: for three days they suit up.

>> this is real fire.

>> reporter: study and sweat along side real firefighters.

>> i think females do bring a different perspective and different approach than males.

>> reporter: a group of 300 firefighters on arlington's force, only 25 are women. nationally the numbers are lower. the most recent data shows women make up 4.5% of the force. out of 305,000 career firefighters , fewer than 14,000 are female. back in 1974 , julie brewer was the first. the application wasn't welcome.

>> he threw it right in the trash can and said this is not a job for a woman.

>> reporter: but the 25-year-old mother of two fought her way into the firehouse. hazed by the men and hated by their wives.

>> they didn't want me sleeping with their husbands and didn't want me sleeping with their husbands.

>> reporter: she retired in tennessee in 1999 .

>> what does it feel like to wear that now.

>> comfortable. very comfortable.

>> for today's fire service , camps like these are the new front line.

>> most of the time the community sees males. so, you know, we're going to bump that number up and show them, say, hey, you can do this too.

>> my grandmother wanted to do it but there weren't really any opportunities for women. but there aren't really any boundaries really for women anymore.

>> reporter: a chance to keep up with the guys.

>> it just motivates you to try harder.

>> reporter: or even blow right by them. for today, nbc news, memphis.

>> good job.

>>> pretty cool.

>> yeah.

>> coming up next, ron howard