Tag Archives: america

Antarctic Fire Angels; A Question from Jenna (USA) – Team WAFA.

As you might remember the last post was Team LAFA’s response to Jenna’s question, this time it’s Team WAFA’s turn. Enjoy!

I wanted to take a moment and say how inspiring you all are. I work in EMS and am deciding whether to do nursing or fire. I am naturally petite and honestly the idea of being a female firefighter is so amazing to me but also so intimidating. Normally that would motivate me to have to do it, but for some reason I feel myself holding back. Is there any advice or knowledge about being a female FF you could give me? Appreciate all you do! Stay safe. – Jenna

George – Ok, so first things first. We are all different but all equal. As a woman in the fire service, you will be the minority, right now that’s the reality, however, consider that the world is desperate for visible role models in every aspect of life. Be confident that you will be an inspiration to a lot of people, young and old out there who are probably feeling exactly the same as you. You are most certainly not alone in the way you feel. 

I always say to people – set yourself up to succeed – do your research; meet the people you may be working with, be open minded and most of all manage your expectations. Not everyone you meet is going to be positive, there will always be those who can’t think outside their own norms but just remember that they are the ones who are missing out on the wonderful things life can show us. Someone like you smashing gender stereotypes, out there, every day,  you will be one of those pioneers pushing the boundaries every day.

You CAN be a super hero AND be vulnerable too. Follow your heart and not what other people say you should be doing.

Alison – So I joined the fire service in 1995 and was the only female in the Service at that time. Below is our course photo and I thought I had better highlight where I was because I know quite a few people have found me hard to spot! I was 26 years old and quite slight.

The below photos of me shows when I recently took non uniform members of the senior management team into our hot fire training facility so that they can appreciate the conditions we sometimes have to face. I wanted to include these as wearing breathing apparatus is one of my favourite things and I still do my breathing apparatus requalification even though the likelihood of me having to go into a fire is very slim.

I worked at Cardiff Central for 9 years and it is one of the busiest stations in the whole of Wales so I was at that time pretty much wearing breathing apparatus on a at least two or three times a tour in house fires and factory fires. In those days our breathing apparatus sets were a lot heavier as the oxygen cylinders were made of steel. Sometimes we would be wandering around very large complex buildings responding to false alarms wearing these on our backs in case there was a fire in the building.

It’s amazing though that once you go from wearing it to donning the facemask and going under air that you don’t notice the weight of the kit once you are actually working at an incident. The adrenaline makes that all go away.

Beci – I decided I was going to be a firefighter when I was 2 years old. My dad was a retained firefighter (we call it on call now) and I loved visiting the fire station.

Here in the UK we have a TV show called “Fireman Sam” (it makes me sad they haven’t updated the name of the show 33 years late) anyway, I was obsessed with it as a child and wanted to grow up to be like Firefighter Penny Morris. I never diverted from that dream. 

At 13 years old I was lucky enough to become a Fire Cadet at our local fire station. Not only did that experience cement my career goal, it gave me the confidence, guidance and role models I needed to apply when I was only 16 years old. Completing the tests and eventually station my whole time training course at 18 years old. I was 5”4’ and weighed 9st 4oz. 

The first few shifts were terrifying. I was just out of school, only just old enough to go to the pub and now I was on a watch with some extraordinary firefighters and phenomenal leaders. I didn’t know if I’d be enough. But I got there and I adore my job. I’m as excited to get up and go to work now as I was as a toddler waving to fire engines as they went past; as excited as that fire cadet learning new skills and the 18 year old on their first shift. 

The fire service is my second family. It’s allowed me more pride and happiness that I could have dreamed for. Go for it. You have nothing to lose and a lifetime of memories and friendships to gain. 

Written by Elissa.

Antarctic Fire Angels; A Question from Jenna (USA) – Team LAFA.

If you remember I mentioned we’ve had questions in from supporters and one of them was all the way from the USA! Jenna asked the below question and the team felt it prompted a wider response than just a few words. So first up is Team LAFA, and we even have some old pictures for you…

Question – I wanted to take a moment and say how inspiring you all are. I work in EMS and am deciding whether to do nursing or fire. I am naturally petite and honestly the idea of being a female firefighter is so amazing to me but also so intimidating. Normally that would motivate me to have to do it, but for some reason I feel myself holding back. Is there any advice or knowledge about being a female FF you could give me? Appreciate all you do! Stay safe. – Jenna

Nakita – Thank you so much for getting in touch with us all. I really love touching base with other emergency responders, especially women. We are each an inspiration to one another! When I joined the Fire Brigade I was 20 years old, weighed around 60 kg at 5’7 and could only deadlift 50kg (just). I wanted this job and I was determined to get it. I trained so hard. I did not want to be seen as strong for a woman, I wanted to be seen as strong full stop.

Can you spot Nakita in this team photo?

Don’t get me wrong; it was intimidating. I was surrounded by men, mainly over the age of 40 with years of firefighting experience. How was I going to tackle this? Over the years I learned the best approach is to stay true to yourself, do not change for anyone to get in with the crowd. You will bring something valuable to the team just the way you are. Do not be afraid to step outside your comfort zone either, work on your weaknesses. You will meet others that will want to see you succeed and thrive, surround yourself with these people. Most importantly be proud of who you are, be proud of your accomplishments and never stop developing yourself! 

I love my job, I am now an officer and am qualified in many skills working with the most amazing group of people. The best decision I made becoming a firefighter. And don’t worry; I now weigh 66kg and deadlift over 125kg. The whole team is here for you, we look forward to hearing which path you take.

Bex – I only started firefighting at the age of 37, any new work environment is intimidating to start with but I had a lot of support from colleagues and friends to help me settle in. I would say go for it and don’t have regrets, if it’s something that ends up not for you then at least you tried and if it turns out to be the best job in the world (it is!) then you didn’t miss out!

Firefighters come in all shapes and sizes these days and that’s what the job needs. Plenty of small places where I couldn’t go but you could. The service needs everyone. Get applying!

Nikki – The best knowledge or advice I can give about being a female firefighter is that it’s genuinely been the best decision I could ever have made. It has transformed my life and opened up so many unexpected doors for me along the way.

I was lucky enough to identify fairly young that I needed to do something worthwhile with my life and became a firefighter at 23; from that moment on I’ve made myself proud by not only doing the job that I immediately adored, but also by becoming a woman that other women would look at to challenge the perceptions of normal.

I completely agree that it can seem intimidating, but for anyone considering it I would say have faith in yourself and the level to which you will be trained. Imagine yourself at the end of training having passed out as a firefighter, being able to be that role model for other women and really focus on how that will make you feel (chances are the feeling will be amazing).

(Check out the next photo of Nikki on her passout in March 2010.)

So to Jenna – I hope this helps and I wish you all the best – you are already incredible!

Some inspiring words from our team and photos which highlight to me how male dominated this job is, but, as they say Jenna, the service needs you. Don’t forget, you can be and do anything you want to do.

Watch out for Team WAFA’s response later on this week!

Written by Elissa.