When two male National Airport firefighters balked at getting haircuts to meet safety regulations until women were required to do the same, suburban Washington's only female airport firefighter was told to take a quick trip to the barber shop.
She did so. Now, Elaine Parreco's sandy-colored hair, which once fell slightly below the collar of her uniform is cropped to satisfy those regulations. It's above her collar and no longer covers her ears.
Parreco got her haircut three days ago and noted last week that "the guys still haven't" gotten theirs.
Nor are the men likely to be required to visit a barber soon.
William A. Halligan, chief of the Federal Aviation Administration's public safety division at National and Dulles airports, met Thursday with union representatives. Halligan agreed to give the International Association of Firefighters, Local 91, a chance to prove that hair length rules are obsolete.
Parreco, 24, assigned to fight fires at Dulles, was required to be photographed twice -- before and after her shearing. She has refused to permit a newspaper photographer to take her picture and was reluctant to talk to a reporter.
She did concede that she thinks the hair regulations archaic, but went on to say: "I'm a professional firefighter. It wasn't a question of whether I wanted to keep my hair.
"But what's good for me is good for anyone else who's a firefighter," she continued. "My hair was cut in 24 hours after they told me. There should be some time limit and punishment if they (her male colleagues) don't get their hair cut too."
No one had anything but kind words for Parreco. Her coworkers called her a "hell of a good worker, a real professional." Halligan of the FAA described her as "a fine lady."
We feel terrible about the whole thing," said a member of the firefighter's union at National. "They singled her out and made her go to the police station to get pictures of her hair."
Halligan acknowledge that the male firefighters whose hair length was at issue -- no more than seven out of the approximately 100 at National and Dulles -- were not told to have their pictures taken, although they were told to get haircuts.
He noted that the union, contending that long hair is no longer a problem, cited "recent developments in safety equipment, specifically their headgear. If there is a real basis for their argument, we will probably allow longer hair, but I think the lady (Parreco) may get made about that . . .
"If we do change the regulations . . . Hair does grow fortunately, and she can grow her hair back again."