Oxfordshire firefighters are mirror images in new diversity recruitment campaign

Four firefighters are starring in an eye-catching diversity recruitment campaign for Oxfordshire County Council Fire and Rescue Service.

In attention-grabbing illusions, Thame firefighters Kevin Morgan (pictured immediately below) and Ashley Ivey-Brown join Shelley Wright, from Wantage, and Aaron Curran, Abingdon, appearing twice on their publicity images; in ‘civvies’; and mirrored in firefighting uniform.

The message is that firefighters are everyday people, from many different backgrounds, with normal jobs and hobbies. They have flexibility to drop everything at a moment’s notice when they get an emergency call, and this is reflected in the mirror artwork.

Kevin (33) joined Oxfordshire County Council Fire and Rescue Service in 2005; Ashley 13 years later, in February 2018. Colleagues Shelley (25) and Aaron (also 25) started in 2016 and 2017 respectively.

They are all fulfilling lifetime ambitions and share a passion for diversity.

Kevin… BAME and diversity

Kevin said: “I’m a member of the BAME Network, supporting current black, Asian, and minority ethnic staff and actively encouraging people from BAME backgrounds to join the service.

“If our personnel represent the community we serve, we will better understand local issues. In turn, we’ll be able to enhance community relationships and break down barriers.

“I hope by the four of us appearing in recruitment publicity, more people will consider firefighting as a career, regardless of their race, background or religion. For example, Shelley is a fantastic role model for women.”

Firefighting has become a fulltime career for Kevin. When he’s not on-call at home in Thame, he’s at Fire HQ in Kidlington, working for the emergency response team and responding to fire and rescue emergencies.

Watch Kevin's interview on That's Oxfordshire TV here.

Ashley… achieving a childhood dream

Ashley (30) balances firefighting with a profession outside of the service. During the day he’s a builder and landscape gardener, specialising in lawn maintenance. At night, he enters a parallel world; on-call, ready to respond to the next fire or rescue emergency; as mirrored in his publicity image.

Ashley said: “I’m achieving my childhood dream. I’d read the recruitment leaflets, but it was still a big step turning up at Thame Fire Station, wondering if I’d got what it takes.

“I needn’t have worried. The welcome and support on day one continued throughout training. Now I’m part of a special, close-knit team. It’s like being part of a big family. There’s a bond between all the firefighters and we take enormous pride in our role, keeping the community safe.”

Ashley is building his knowledge ‘on the job’, having already attended road traffic collisions and a chimney fire this year. Kevin is one of his mentors, drawing on over a decade of experience, which includes the Didcot Power Station cooling tower demolition accident, and numerous road traffic collisions, particularly on the M40 near Thame, his call out patch.

Aaron… part of a special team

Aaron (25) drove past Abingdon Fire Station daily on the ‘school run’ and noticed the recruitment banner. His fiancé, Sophie, encouraged him to ‘have a go’. From the moment he knocked on the fire station door and spoke to the watch manager, he’s never looked back.

Aaron said: “You hear so many stories of people looking back on life, wishing they hadn’t shied away from a challenge.

“Thankfully, Fire and Rescue makes it really easy for anyone pondering joining the service. The recruitment banner, the open days and ‘taster’ sessions. The warm welcome and support from day one. Now I’m part of a special team, taking great pride in keeping Abingdon’s residents safe.”

Aaron can choose when he’s on-call and currently commits between 120-160 hours a week. When off-duty he enjoys badminton and cycling; useful hobbies for keeping fit.

In his short career as an on-call firefighter, Aaron has attended a range of emergencies, including water rescues, grass and thatch fires, road traffic collisions, and rescuing people from jammed lifts.

Shelley… ideal work-life balance

Shelley (25) has an ideal work-life balance. Making the most of flexible hours available to on-call firefighters, she splits her time between working for the charity Enrych Oxfordshire and being on standby for the next fire and rescue emergency.

Shelley said: “This has been a life changing experience. You have the ‘feel good’ factor of saving lives, livelihoods and priceless possessions. And the camaraderie that comes from working in a team on a range of challenges.”

Shelley is qualified to drive fire appliances and specialist off-road vehicles, ideal for crossing rough terrain when tackling field fires; a regular occurrence during last summer’s heatwave.

Her incident response experience is wide; from house and barn fires, to car crashes; even rescuing a snake trapped up a chimney!

Oxfordshire County Council Fire and Rescue Service is organising ‘taster’ day, offering people from a range of diverse backgrounds an opportunity to experience what it takes to be a firefighter, or a member of the fire prevention team. Participants will be able to ask questions to those already in the service.

Come and have a go!

“Come and have a go,” says Shelley. “The ‘taster’ days and training are great fun and very rewarding. If you continue to become a fully-fledged firefighter, you’ll get fantastic support and a variety of experiences you’ve probably never dreamed of.”

Ideally on-call firefighters should live within five minutes of the nearest fire station, but anyone further afield is encouraged to get in contact; there are a range of other opportunities.

Businesses are being asked to allow employees to become on-call firefighters. Participating organisations often find they enhance their reputation by giving back to the local community.

Oxfordshire County Council Fire and Rescue Service attended 6,654 emergencies across the county in 2018. As part of the thriving communities’ initiative, they run educational campaigns on road and home safety, as well as advising and enforcing fire safety legislation to local businesses.

There are 330 on-call firefighters across the county.

The on-call workforce consists of individuals who provide variable levels of cover, to suit their work and personal lives.

Find out more about becoming an on-call firefigter. Visit the website: www.oxfordshire.gov.uk/oncallfirefighters or email fire.recruitment@oxfordshire.gov.uk