Being a Female Fire Fighter
What's it like being a Fire Fighter?
Stephanie is a health and fitness coach with 2 children and 2 dogs. She loves traveling the world and challenging herself. She enjoys hiking, biking and cross-fit. She likes crafts and will try to make anything! She also loves to cook and is currently studying nutrition.
Job title: Fire Fighter
Current employer: Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service
Hours: 74 Hours on call per week
How long have you been practising in this field? 6 years.
In your current role, what do you spend your time doing?
I put out fires, conduct emergency driving and oversee water, animal and person rescues or rescue people from heights. I sometimes have to remove bodies of the deceased and manage road traffic collisions.
What's it like working in your role? What does a typical day look like?
Typically, most incidents tend to be RTC (road traffic collisions) or accidents on the highway. Generally the response depends on the crew; it’s 1 driver and 1 firefighter in charge and then a minimum of 2 people in the back, so 4 people minimum and the maximum is 6. If I’m driving, I’d tend to stay on pump and radio message between incident ground and control office and other officers to relay messages and keep notes. If there’s another person at the pump, I’ll come off and run out hoses or get the cutting equipment out. I can also do first aid so that I can assist ambulance crews if there’s minimal aid on site.
After that, we clear the road so it’s usable again. Depending on the scene, sometimes we can’t touch anything for example if it requires crime scene photos, so we stay until the police are satisfied and then we can clean away the debris.
For a fire, I’ll assess the scene or assess how people need to be rescued. You’ll look at the condition of the casualty and consider the first aid needs of people or get on with rescuing.
When you go to an incident involving fire with persons reported, you’ll have a BA crew (team lead and second) and go in groups of two. You’ll be given a brief with basic instructions of which way to go through the building (left or right hand search) if you know where the casualty is, we’ll head there and deal with hazards on the way like collapsing parts of the building. There could be an opening or window so people can walk down or be carried down, or if not, we’ll take them the way we came in.
Recently I’ve been working in traumatic body recovery. This involves two crew members going out in an unmarked van to go to a specified area to and pick up the deceased, place the body in a bag with tags and then send it to hospital. I am currently the only female to help with that, it’s not for everyone.
Are there any specific qualifications you are required to have in your field?
There's two weeks of initial training - different elements from height to strength of being able to pick up ladders at certain angles.
What’s your favourite part of your job?
Actually driving the fire engine. I really enjoy driving. Also, the variability, the diversity of always going to different places is nice and the training keeps it new and interesting. For example, we get to go to different buildings like stately homes, all with different rooms and small corridors.
I enjoy that I have a good crew to work with, you have a laugh, you know how everyone works. We have great rapport.
What were your favourite subjects at school?
Science, IT, Drama.
What did you want to be as a child when you 'grew up'?
A fire fighter!
Tell us about your career journey - how did you become a firefighter?
From a young age I was clear what I wanted to do, I never fitted the ‘girl’ mould. I did go through a period of feeling like I couldn’t be a firefighter because I was a female - it was very male-oriented when I was growing up and they had height restrictions.
But, when I got older, I knew the guys at the local fire station and they said that I could join and that I should come and see what it’s like. I thought to myself, if I try and don’t get in, at least I know I tried. And I got in!
After that I enrolled for the fire service and was put on various courses to increase my knowledge and experience within different areas, and here I am!
Can you remember what your parents reactions were to that aspiration?
They knew it would be a good fit.
Has anyone ever been surprised when you told them that you were a Fire Fighter?
I usually get raised eyebrows as I’m 5ft 3in tall, so people are surprised. People usually assume I work in the office. There are other female firefighters I know but I’m the only one on my station. People are especially surprised when they find out I drive the engine, and then they say “oh my gosh, that’s so cool”.
Are there any challenges or benefits working as an Fire Fighter?
It does test you when it’s hot and you have all your kit on and are squeezing through small spaces but it just challenges you and your mindset. I like a challenge!
What are 3 things you have to like to do your job?
Hard work, working as part of a team and problem solving.
You have to have an open mind and be someone who doesn’t get stressed too easily. You always have your crew to fall back on and help you but being able to think outside the box can help.
What advice would you give to young girls who are aspiring to be in your role, or who maybe haven't even considered it as a career?
Go and try it and see if you like it - one day you may not have that opportunity and you may well regret it. Just give it a go.
Hours: 35-40 hours/week. Hours of work typically include regular unsocial hours. You'll usually work 42 hours a week in a shift pattern. Most firefighters work two day shifts followed by two night shifts, before having four days off.
Salary: The starting salary for a trainee firefighter is £22,459. When full competence is achieved, this rises to £29,934. Higher rates apply for overtime.
Fires and fire fatalities have dropped significantly in the UK over the past ten years
In 2016, Firefighters in England were predominantly male (95%) and white (96%). 5% were female. Fire & rescue authorities statistics.