Mum’s the word for trainee Oxfordshire firefighter
The face of latest on-call firefighter recruitment campaign
On-call firefighter, Woodstock Fire Station,
Oxfordshire County Council’s Fire and Rescue Service
‘Most mums are delighted to have a framed picture of their baby in the living room.
‘But I can trump that. My little one, Arthur, is going to appear on garage petrol pumps, the back of buses, and he’s going to be a social media star.
‘It’s all part of us both starring in publicity for Oxfordshire County Council’s Fire and Rescue Service who are encouraging more women to apply to become on-call firefighters.
‘When I’m not looking after Arthur, well, I am an on-call firefighter, based at Woodstock Fire Station, on standby for the next emergency callout.
‘The fire service wants more women to join. It offers awesome encouragement to its female firefighters. There’s even a support group for women crew members.
‘From the Chief Fire Officer down, the welcome and commitment to equality and inclusively is everywhere.
‘I’m new at this too, having only joined the fire service a year ago.
‘I’d been pondering it for some time, then the start of the pandemic scuppered so many plans.
‘During the next two years, I became pregnant with Arthur. That meant I had fresh responsibilities and challenges.
‘But I kept asking myself, can I still become a firefighter? The answer was yes!
‘My partner’s job involves shift work. On-call firefighters agree their time around outside work and family commitments, meaning I can be available for the fire service when my partner is at home, off-duty, looking after Arthur.
‘Of course, I had my doubts. We live in a world of equality nowadays, but you wonder if outdated male orientated attitudes remain. I also questioned if I had the necessary strength and physique.
‘I discovered an open door to test myself, a ‘have a go day’, as they call it, at Didcot Fire Station, specifically for women.
‘The trainers were fantastic, instructing and encouraging. I tested myself by completing lifting exercises, ladder climbing and putting on breathing apparatus. Firefighters offered advice on how to build up strength and fitness.
‘I also went away having discovered I’m not claustrophobic or scared of heights!
‘Once you’re accepted, it takes around two years to complete the training, but you also learn on the job.
‘The callouts have been occasional; but have involved two big incidents. A nursery fire in Milton Keynes, where we supported crews from Buckinghamshire, and a mobile home fire in Oxfordshire.
‘At each incident, I’m assigned a specific task. The incident commander carefully monitors my progress to make sure I don’t endanger myself or others. This is the best way to learn, receiving encouraging feedback builds knowledge and confidence.
‘It’s exciting developing new skills; and rewarding making new friends through the incredible camaraderie that exists between the crew.
‘On-call firefighting has given me the perfect balance between a happy family environment with my partner and Arthur – ooh, and not forgetting our pet dog Archie – and feeling I’m giving something back to the community.
‘There’s even time for hobbies. Paddle boarding with friends on the local river and exercising Archie. He’s a Lurcher, so you can imagine, needs plenty of exercise. As it is important firefighters keep themselves fit, the pet dog doubles up as my trainer too!
‘Hopefully by sharing my story and experiences, more women will be encouraged to give it a go.
‘If a little more inspiration is needed, watch out for Arthur and me next time you fill up at the petrol pump, catch a bus, or check your social media feeds. You might well see his cute face!’
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