New book celebrates women in the Chicago Fire Department

A new book is celebrating the diverse strengths that women bring to the Chicago Fire Department.

Retired veteran firefighter Cat Renar has spent the past eight years compiling "Chicago Strong: The Real Women of Chicago Fire," a coffee table book that highlights the contributions and experiences of female firefighters and medics.

"The women on this job are really what inspired me," said Renar, who served with the CFD for 20 years. "I was actually cross-trained as a firefighter/medic. I left — retired from the job as an engineer, as a driver."

Renar's career took her across Chicago, starting on the West Side before moving to the South Side and the North Side, eventually concluding near downtown at Engine 14.

The book began as a smaller project.

"I started shooting portraits of women I admire and then an opportunity arose to do a calendar," Renar explained. The project soon evolved into a coffee table book, funded by a successful Kickstarter campaign that raised the necessary funds in just two days.

Priced at $65, "Chicago Strong" features graphic design and photography primarily by Renar, with technical support from her husband, also a photographer.

"Coordinating our schedules was the hardest part of the whole book," Renar noted. She aimed to balance representation between EMS and fire, capturing a cross-section of veteran trailblazers and newer voices within the department.

The book's launch and first signing event drew a significant turnout.

"It’s so rewarding because these women are so strong," Renar said. "There are so many other things that constitute what strong is, and I think they make up exactly what it is. We're all different but we're all the same."

Renar's work not only showcases the strength and diversity of the women in the CFD but also serves as an inspiration for future generations.