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Antarctic Fire Angels; Q and A. (4)

Q1. Although it’s not the end of your expedition, when you get to the South Pole, how will you celebrate?

George – Moonwalking in my skis…just kidding!! Thinking idealistically, I’d like to pop open a hip flask of port and toast everyone who’s made it there through adversity. Realistically, touch it, get resupplied, make sure everyone is ok, quick rest stop then leave.

Alison – I think we’ll all have a little hip flask for monumental moments like this. In mine I will have some aptly names ‘Snow Queen Vodka’. It’s so smooth it can be drunk neat! I would also like to be able to ring my husband and tell him we made it to the South Pole. And as we will be resupplying I would hope for some cake. 

Nikki – Firstly, I’ll be bopping around the South Pole itself taking hundreds of selfies with it – my memory is shocking and I want as much photographic evidence of our achievements as possible! Secondly its got to be some sort of booze – I’d love to say a Baileys hot chocolate although this might be a stretch!

Nakita – Snacks, definitely snacks and a team picture…then off we go!!

Bex – A few swigs of brandy, some snow angels and a dance!

Beci – Knowing me I’ll probably happy cry. I think it’ll be a bit daunting to know my pulk is about to get heavy again…but we’ll be in a place only a tiny number of humans have stood. It will be a real mixture of emotions. Secretly hope they’ll let us shower there. A shower and clean knickers…heaven!! 

 Q2. Antarctica is a very special place that few get the chance to experience. Have you Guys appointed a team medic or all taken some extra med training for your exped?

Team – We all have basic trauma training but we will all be making sure our skills are current before we leave for the expedition. There is no doubt that some members of the team will be naturally drawn to that role better than others but any big decisions will be taken out of our control by the base camp doctor such as the decision to evacuate someone or the whole team. We have a few friends of the team that have first hand experience of being a medic in this environment and look forward to working with them. 

Q3. If you could take one imaginary item with you regardless of weight what would it be?

George – Can I have 3? My dogs, Pippa, Poppy and Luis.

Alison – Definitely my bed. I always miss that when I am away. 

Nikki – Probably my shower! I hate the idea of accumulating layers of grossness day after day! It’d be amazing to have a hot shower and a fluffy towel at the end of the day to reset and feel ready for the next one! Although I probably wouldn’t want to get out.

Nakita – Too many possibilities here!

Bex – George my dog, great hot water bottle and all round comfort and fun.

Beci – A bathroom.

Q4. Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?

Beci – Working towards a big promotion at work. Two kids doing well. I’d like to start a degree. Delivering training/talks post expedition and maybe do some mountains too.

Bex – Enjoying life in wales with my family. 

Nakita – Having completed the expedition and using my experience to help others move forward with their own fund raising challenges to get their message out there. 

Nikki – Ooo I’ve actually no idea! I can see myself experiencing a void when I no longer have the Antarctic to focus on, so I’d imagine I’ll seek to fill that somehow, whether that be another physical challenge or something a little more family orientated! I don’t imagine I’d shut up about the incredible expedition I’d been on too, and if I can continue to help women realise their own possibilities I’ll be so happy.

Alison – I will be retired from the Fire Service then. So I would like to be helping other women to take on challenges and give them some leadership and coaching skills. I would like to lead a few outdoor type courses if my body is still in good order. I would love to have a place in France that my husband and I could spend a lot of time. Would love to have another dog but hopefully that won’t take 5 years! Who knows I could be looking for another challenge to take on. 

George – I see myself sitting in a beautiful holiday cottage with the dogs and my partner planning the next Expedition and probably my retirement! I also aim to be leading expeditions for people who never considered themselves capable of doing anything like this. 

Q5. Coffee or tea?

George – Tea when I wake up. Coffee mid morning with a biscuit.

Alison – Oh I am a massive coffee drinker. No brainier, this question. 

Nikki – Tea, tea tea!! Don’t tell anyone but I can’t bear coffee!

Nakita – Coffee!

Bex – I like both, tea first thing and coffee throughout the day! 

Beci – Decaf coffee.

Q6. Describe yourself in three words:

George – Only 3?! Ermmmm – prompt, focussed, sentimental. 

Alison – Determined, logical , impatient.

Nikki – Independent, Enthusiastic, & Stubborn (It’s personal growth to admit this one – my mother has been telling me this for years!)

Nakita – Unable to simplify! In all seriousness – Determined, passionate and loyal.

Bex – Resilient, dedicated and loyal.

Beci – Contradictory. Talkative. Hungry.

As always we have some lovely little videos for you to watch, click on the pictures to go there. Beci talks about her mental health and how she is coping with lockdown.

Nakita opens up about her reasons for starting the Antarctic Fire Angels. What it means to her personally and as a team…it’s an emotional one so get the tissues ready!

Written by Elissa

Antarctic Fire Angels; Q and A. (3)

Q1. Who came up with the name ‘Antarctic Fire Angels’?

George – Ok so officially, Beci’s children came up with the name – when asked they said “Well my mam is a firefighter and an angel” so that’s where it stayed and turned into the Antarctic Fire Angels! 

Nakita – George and I had sat in a pub in Clapham Junction after a meeting with Sophie from the Ice Maidens Army Team. We knew it had to be special. Various words and phrases scribbled across the page, a work in progress. When we started recruiting the team Beci had gone home to tell her children who then came forward with the fire angel concept.

 Q2. What is your favourite food?

Nikki – A burger; not McDonalds (that’s an insult to the name burger) but like a proper pub burger with lots of fillings and sauce – yummy! I also love Greek, Thai, Italian, the list goes on!

George – On the savoury side; salmon with noodles, nice and simple. In fact I’m not that overly keen on complicated food! Sweet; Turkish delight.

Bex – I love cheese! Something I will really miss in the Antarctic!

Alison – I love seafood. Any kind of seafood but particularly prawns and mussels. I could eat them in every meal. 

Beci – I can’t chose a favourite. I love food. The only thing I can narrow down is the small group of foods I don’t like (anything aniseed / liquorice flavour).

Nakita – This is really hard for me. Over the last year I’ve had to give up a lot of favourite foods as I seem to have a reaction to certain food groups. Currently have to be gluten free and dairy free which is cruel as I love pizza and cheese!! But a roast lamb with all the veg trimmings is safe……my Mum is the best at this!!

Q3. What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?

Alison – Engage your brain before your mouth. Think before you say something you may regret basically. 
The other one relates to work and it was from a more senior officer who said no matter what you turn up to on an incident – look calm when you arrive. Take a few minutes to assess the scene and then detail the crew to carry out actions. If you are calm they will be calm. 

Bex – Rest and recovery is as important as training so always factor it in! 

Nakita – If you worry about what other people think of you, then you will have more confidence in their opinion than you have in your own.

Beci – To question your feelings, not just accept them as they present. Ask why and try to change it. 

George – Be the person you needed when you were growing up.

Nikki – Have faith in yourself – you can do this.

Q4. What item in your wardrobe do you wear most?

Beci – My skinny jeans and selfish mother sweaters.

George – Shorts and flip flops or pyjamas.

Bex – Jeans, I love a good pair of jeans in many colours. 

Alison – Jeans. I am always in jeans black, blue, white, patterned.

Nakita – Gym leggings…..I live in them! Working out, dog walking and as casual wear. Totally addicted. Sooo comfy!!

Nikki – Gym kit! I literally live in the stuff.

Q5. Why did you decide on the Antarctic and not somewhere warmer like the Sahara? 

George – Well, that was down to Sophie from the ice maidens! But there’s no reason why an expedition to a hot place would be out of the question. 

Nakita – Completely inspired by the Ice Maidens Team. George and I could of chosen somewhere different (and warmer), but the idea of the contrast between fire and ice, going into an environment completely opposite to our role as firefighters we hope would add to our inspirational challenge.

Nikki – I think the Antarctic is fitting for firefighters – like we’re used to one extreme so how about we tackle the opposite extreme.

Q6. If you could be any animal, what would it be and why?

Nakita – I love the idea of being a dog (completely pampered – especially in the Ross family!) but to mix it up I would say a shark! Ill explain, always had a weird fascination with them after watching Jaws. They are the best design they can be. I’ve always loved this poster I saw a while back – Do sharks need motivation? NO! They are up swimming around biting things and chasing stuff reminding everyone they’re a shark!

Nikki – Probably a dolphin – I think I make more sense in the water than I do on land! Although I definitely look more like a gangly giraffe.

George – I’d be one of my dogs. They live a life of luxury! 

Bex – A cat, you get pampered by your owner and fed but also you have independence to go and do what you want when you want! 

Alison – I would be a horse, free to run, out in a field, fed, groomed and looked after by humans. Taken out to different places on a hack, maybe exercised over a few jumps. Part of a herd. What’s not to like. 

Beci – A dog. Seriously mine has the life of luxury. Nice bed, constant tummy tickles,  food, walks and she’s always happy. 

Double whammy this post, Co-Founder of the Antarctic Fire angels, George, and Alison from Team WAFA has done a video for us all about how they are coping with lockdown and how it feels to be a keyworker.

Click on the pictures to go to the short video clips from our two Fire Angels.

Remember, Stay Home, Protect the NHS and Save Lives.

Written by Elissa

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.

Antarctic Fire Angels; Q and A. (2)

So the last blog post with a short Q&A went down really well with readers so here is another one to keep you going. Whilst in lockdown this is the best way for you to get to know the Antarctic Fire Angels a little better; enjoy!

Q1. What is your biggest fear?

George – Not achieving, including the smaller things, not just the Expedition itself. 

Nakita – To not achieve the goals I set. It just feels like unfinished business and that I’ve let myself down.

Alison – Getting older and having to rely on other people. Being a burden to others. 

Bex – It was actually heights before I got into the Firebrigade, I had to really conquer this to do this awesome job. The training and skills I have learnt alleviated my fears and allowed me to deal with it throughout training and now at work. I have over come this now! 

Nikki – I fear by body becoming incapable of doing what my mind wants it to do – like through significant injury or old age and losing my independence. I also have a fear of regret.

Beci – Loosing someone close to me and/or having an unhappy family. 

 Q2. What are you most proud of?

Beci – My family, I’m so proud of the people my children are growing up to be (so far so good…) and my job. I absolutely love my job. 

Nikki – My independence I think – I’ve worked very hard to prove that I am capable of doing anything I want to do. Lots of things I do in my life are to challenge and push my capabilities and it’s where I thrive.

Bex – I am lucky to have a number of proud moments to date such as passing out to become a firefighter in my old age of 37 and competing for my country in 4 different sports. However the one that will always stay with me was becoming world champion and world record holder in the sport of ‘surf lifesaving’ back in 2000 when I was 18. I went to the world champs in Sydney for experience and a goal of making one final so it was a surreal experience that I’ll never forget! 

Alison – This is a tough one. I am not a particularly proud person and don’t like putting myself out there. But I think it’s getting to where I am in the fire service and achieving it through hard work not because I am a woman. I would like to think I haven’t changed much through the process and I remember where I have come from. 

Nakita – Difficult one to answer! I’m proud of a lot of things, I want to keep pushing my limits. At the moment I’m extremely proud of the Team and all we have achieved, even through these difficult times. 

George – Oooo, tricky because I tend to be proud of things as and when they happen but if I had to nail something, it would be getting this amazing team together. 

Q3. Who would you most like to go for a drink with?

Alison – Oh dear. I want to say someone really intelligent and highbrow like Stephen Fry but he’s just too clever. But I would rather have a good laugh so Noel Fielding or Freddie Flintoff. 

Bex – Holly Willoughby.

Nikki – Chris Hemsworth – no explanation necessary!

Nakita – Oooo! For laughs Russell Howard! What a funny night that would be.

Beci – Ohhh loads. Can I have a party? David Attenborough, Tim Minchin, Dave Grohl, Hollie McNish, Caitlin Moran, Billy Connolly Michael Sheen, Ewan McGregor, Jodie Whittaker, Daisy Ridley, Brian Cox, Eric Idle, Mark Hamill, John Cusack, Ryan Reynolds, Max Boyce, Matt Haig…I mean, can we pick dead people too?!

George – Now that falls into categories for me;
Stalker fan – Emily Blunt.
Brain fuel – Stephen Fry and Sandi Toksvig.
Just to breath the same air as them – Dame Maggie Smith. 

Q4. Who are your heroes?

Bex – Sharon Davies – swimmer/presenter.

George – Fictional – Wonder Woman. Real life- Lowri Morgan

Nakita – I’ve been inspired by parents, their careers and the struggles they went through. Possibly basing my life on wanting to become a real life Lara Croft!

Beci – My grandparents. They are/were all such strong people.

Alison – Easy, Haile Gerbresalassie is my running hero. Usain Bolt would be up there too. What they have both achieved in the world of athletics is unbelievable, they’ve really made it a global sport and have inspired lots of people from very poor backgrounds. 

Nikki – Um tough one – my parents have always been incredible role models to me, showing how love and kindness will always prevail. Fictional hero someone like Katniss Everdeen – proper badass gal. Sporting heroes include Jenson Button & Rebecca Addlington.

Q5. What job would you be terrible at?

George – Any ball sport coaching.

Nakita – I think anything to do with sitting at a computer and selling something over the phone…I would probably convince them not to buy it!

Alison – A librarian as I can be very loud. I would be the one who would be told off all the time!

Bex – Surgeon – too heavy handed! 

Beci – A Teacher.

Nikki – Something really analytical and clever like an air-traffic controller – my brain would be fried!

Q6. What job did you want to do when you were younger?

Nakita – I wanted to join the Army and my parents had lined up Sandhurst for me. Stupidly I didn’t do it. It is one of my “what if” moments! 

George – Royal Navy or Army, BUT doing all the things the men did. Back then we weren’t allowed as women to do all the exciting things. 

Bex – An Olympian and a marine biologist. 

Nikki – I wanted to be a vet until I learnt that I’d have to stick my hand up cows bums!

Alison – Police Officer and I also wanted to join the RAF to be a PTI. I also thought about physiotherapy.

Beci – Firefighter and be a Blue Peter presenter. I still *really* want a badge…

Hope you’ve enjoyed this instalment of Q & A with the Fire Angels, there is plenty more to come whilst we remain in lockdown.

For those of you who haven’t already seen it there is a lovely video from Bex on her daily exercise talking about lockdown, how she is coping, what changes it has made to her routines and why we should all stay at home. (Click on picture for video).

Remember, Stay Home, Protect the NHS and Save Lives.

Written by Elissa