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Documentary on early Citrus Heights fire-fighting volunteers viewable free online

Ladies in White, Citrus Heights Fire Dept.
A photo from the mid-1960’s showing three members of the Ladies in White on the right, in front of the Citrus Heights Fire Department. // Image credit: Sacramento Metro Fire District

By Rylie Friesen-
With limited entertainment options available amid COVID-19 shutdowns, those looking for something to watch may find a documentary on the history of Citrus Heights’ female firefighting and medic volunteers of interest.

Local women stepped up to fill a need from the 1950s to 1980s. Known as the “Ladies in White” or “Angels in White” for their white overalls and feminine touch, these women served as the pioneering first responders of the area, before Sacramento County began paying emergency medical responders.

The film, called “Ladies to the Rescue,” features interviews with former Ladies in White and also touches on the “Ladies Auxiliary,” a team of female firefighters formed in 1942 after many men left for military service during World War II.

“They were doing what needed to be done because their husbands were not available,” Public Historian Debbie Poulsen said in the documentary. “They were not turning down any type of fire that needed to be fought.”

For over 30 years, these women were trained to help the community by fighting fires, helping children, and saving people from car wrecks.

“I am so glad I did it,” said Marsha Bichel, a former member of the Ladies in White. “It gives you a feeling of worth. I felt positive going in and learning. I felt like I could take care of my own kids better, with the training. I felt I was doing something for my community, and that’s important.”

The since-disbanded Citrus Heights History and Arts Commission first released the commemorative documentary in 2016, seeking to preserve a piece of history and show a glimpse of what it was like to be a Lady in White. The video premiered on PBS KVIE the following year and is available to watch free online.

To see the documentary on the PBS website, visit here.

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