Standing at attention in identical navy uniforms, 49 eager recruits from class 148 graduated from the Los Angeles County Fire Department training center last month in East Los Angeles.
Shoulders back, eyes straight ahead, the recruits swore an oath to protect and serve their community.
Forty-seven of the recruits were men. Two were women.
Ariana Alvarado was one of those women. She endured a grueling 17-week gauntlet of physical and written tests to graduate on July 21.
"Sometimes there are days when you feel down or you feel tired and your body feels broken," said Alvarado, 30, from Riverside County. "I made it."
She's one of 48 women at the Los Angeles County Fire Department.
About 2 percent of the 3,099 firefighters at the agency are women, behind the national average of 4 percent, according to a report from the National Fire Protection Association, a nonprofit that collects data on the country's fire departments.
The number of women at the LA County Fire Department has increased slightly over the years, something officials are trying to improve.
Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn and her colleagues recently called on Fire Chief Daryl Osby to increase the number of women at the department.
"I always think of LA County as being a model of leading the country in a progressive agenda," Hahn said. "It seems to me that we've fallen from that a little bit."
To encourage more women into the service, the department held its first women's prep academy last year.
In the class, potential recruits test their mettle by running with hoses in full gear, doing pull ups, and performing other exhausting things that firefighters do on the job.
The department also started a recruitment camp for teen girls and created a women's league, which gives female firefighters a space where they can speak up to their superiors about concerns.
The fire department has been working with a consultant from UCLA to provide gender bias awareness training.
Officials are also making changes to the fire houses by putting money into retrofitting stations to add separate restrooms and dorms for women. Fewer than half of the 174 fire stations in LA County have these amenities.
At the recruit graduation, Osby appealed to the new recruits, asking them to help in creating a more inclusive department.
"We need to place emphasis on telling a woman she can be a firefighter," he said. "We're all going to have the responsibility of telling everyone that they have a place in the Los Angeles County Fire Department."