Prather questioned 5'2" female firefighters

RODEO, CA

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"I apologize. I misspoke. I used one word wrong," said Bill Prather, a Rodeo-Hercules fire district board member.

At Wednesday's fire district meeting, Prather took heat for comments he made at a meeting in February. The discussion with a union president was about physical qualifications firefighters need to carry the required gear.

"He said, 'Well who do you consider unqualified?' I said, '5'2" female. They put us all at risk,'" said Prather.

"As those that work side by side with them, we're offended by those types of statements," said Firefighter Local #1230 Union President Vince Wells.

The Firefighters Local #1230 says they need different sizes of firefighters for different situations.

"The word I should have used was 5'2" person. I could cut my tongue out for letting that word go," said Prather.

Prather says he still thinks a 5'2" person is unqualified. Now during the actual test a candidate would have to wear a 45-pound vest and walk three miles in 45 minutes.

"It feels heavy, but no more than 50 pounds of groceries that I carry up those stairs every day or two infants on my hips," said Victoria Tate, a Rodeo resident.

A 50-year-old woman, a 13-year-old girl, and a mother of four -- all 5'2" tall -- tried on the vest.

"During pregnancy we carry 45 pounds or even more," said Adela Lutz, a Rodeo resident.

But Prather has his supporters.

"They dropped all the standards that involve my safety and everyone else's safety in a fire, just so they could get women in the fire service," said Tom Satery, a Rodeo resident.

Prather was facing possible termination, but the meeting was continued until June 24th.

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