Prather questioned 5'2" female firefighters

May 20, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
A fire district board member sparked quite a controversy when he questioned the ability of 5'2" women to do the job. Now he may lose his position on the board over the remarks and is now apologizing.

MOST POPULAR: Video, stories and more
SIGN-UP: Get breaking news sent to you

"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.

       Today's latest headlines | ABC7 News on your phone
Follow us on Twitter | Fan us on Facebook | Get our free widget