Tag Archives: women

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. (1)

As a bit of a shake up myself and the team went out on social media to see if anyone had any questions for us. A few we have answered directly but some needed a bit more detail and focus; having had a good think about their answers I’ve put some of it together for you to have a read as a mini blog. There will be more to come over the coming weeks and months but here are a few to keep you going…

Q1. In the toughest moments; what will each of you focus upon and draw upon to keep going?

Nikki – In tough moments I usually draw upon the mantra of ‘this too shall pass’. I think to myself ‘time will pass, this will end and at some point I’ll look back at this moment with pride’. It really does help!

Bex – Just knowing that I would have these moments and that I had trained 3 years for this would help me cope in those tough times. But also I would need a few moments of ‘me time’ to pull myself together, listen to a few good tunes and think about my family and how I wouldn’t want to let them down.

George – In my toughest moments, I bury myself in thoughts like; What I want today, to stop and go home, is different to what I want to achieve in the future; success and Antarctica resilience. Or I draw upon my favourite poem;

Self Pity by DH Lawrence
I never saw a wild thing
sorry for itself.
A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough
without ever having felt sorry for itself.

Alison – In my toughest moments I will think of how lucky I am to be doing what I am doing and think of all the people less fortunate, or physically unable to take part in a challenge like ours. I often think of my father who passed just over 2 years ago and how proud he would have been to see me do this. He was always my biggest fan and encouraged me to try different things.

Beci – For me it will be the knowledge that every step forward is a step towards home. A step towards the person I want to become and the goal I want to complete. “So far you’ve survived 100% of your toughest days… you’re doing great”.

Nakita – I have been through some tough moments throughout my life. Each time I was determined not to let these negative and painful moments defeat me. I would beat this, I would come out stronger and wiser, with the knowledge to help those I saw going through similar situations.

When my brother was serving in Afghanistan it was an extremely difficult time for my family. Fear is a dangerous monster that if allowed, will consume you whole. We had given my brother a small card with a poem on to carry, to read when he needed it. I now have the exact card in a frame as I walk in the door. So what would you do if you had no fear? Me? I’m off to the Antarctic!

Don’t Quit by John Greenleaf Whittier
When things go wrong as they sometimes will,
When the road you’re trudging seems all up hill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest if you must, but don’t you quit.
Life is strange with its twists and turns
As every one of us sometimes learns
And many a failure comes about
When he might have won had he stuck it out;
Don’t give up though the pace seems slow—
You may succeed with another blow.
Success is failure turned inside out—
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell just how close you are,
It may be near when it seems so far;
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit—
It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.

Q2. What is your favourite book?

George – Johnathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach

Nikki – Harry Potter (all of them!)

Nakita – The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Alison – The Snowman by Jo Nesbo

Beci – I don’t have a favourite book. It’s impossible to choose just one but I am currently reading Motherhood by Tetyana Denford.

Bex – I don’t read books so don’t have one.

Q3. If you could have a superpower what would it be?

Bex – To be invisible.

George – If I told you I’d have to kill you. But probably something to do with the mind.

Alison – Being able to run at supersonic speed. 

Nakita – Hmmm such a hard one! I’d like to be like Captain Marvel! 

Nikki – Being able to fly.

Beci – Being able to fly but also to be totally badass with it like Captain Marvel.

Q4. What is your favourite film?

Alison – Pulp Fiction.

Nakita – The Fifth Element.

Bex – The Beach.

George – So many to chose from! Probably any Bond film or any Emily Blunt film.

Nikki – Home Alone.

Bex – It is really hard to choose just one. Can we split it into Genres? If I had to pick it would be Star Wars. 

Q5. What is your guilty pleasure?

Nakita – Binge watching the Walking Dead.

Bex – Watching a place in the sun.

Alison – Watching First Dates. I love it! And my other one is Elvis.

George – Eating Turkish delight, in a oner. 

Nikki – Twiglets…and most snacks!

Beci – Watching Call The Midwife. I love it; watching it feels like a hug. 

Q6. How will you celebrate achieving your goal and who do you want there with you when you do and why?

Nakita – There is going to be a welcome home party which we will be having limited tickets for! 
Of course I want my immediate family (if possible my dogs!), my watch and close friends there and I guess Jay Morton from SAS Who Dares Wins seeing as he is trying so hard to find me on tinder…!
I think eating all the foods we’ve missed and just being in something that isn’t expedition kit will be a real treat! It could possibly be the last time for a while we are all together as a team so I’d want to make the most of it, as I know after what we will have been through I will really miss them.

Alison – It would involve a day of pampering first; hair, nails and full body massage. Putting on a fabulous dress and a pair of high shoes (if my feet can take it). A party with curry and Indian food which I love. Dancing and drinking with my husband, family and friends and all those who’ve supported us. And if I could get an Elvis impersonator to sing that would be the icing on the cake….And then go and lie on a beach for two weeks. 

Nikki – Obviously it’s got to be a massive party with everyone there, but I also think I’d like to follow that up with smaller dinners with just me and my loved ones, and I think my own personal celebration will be when all the hype has died down – a night all cosy in my flat with a glass of Prosecco in one hand and a tub of twiglets in the other, reflecting on what a mad journey it’s been.

George – I would want my partner there for sure in Punta Arenas and then to get back home asap to see the dogs and smother them in hugs! Party wise, yes exclusive invites from back home and of course sponsors, but considering I’m not someone who has a long list of pals, my invite list would be quite short! 

Beci – I’ll want to see my husband and the kids on our return first and foremost. I think I’ll need quiet time to come back around to “normality” and do some reflection.When it comes to a celebration I’d want the other fire angels and all the wonderful people who have supported us to achieve that goal in whatever capacity at the party. And of course for there to be LOADS of food!

Rebecca – I would want a shower then to see my partner and have a beer, follow by seeing my dog! Then a party to see all my family and friends and eat the food I want and drink what I want.

We hope you enjoyed a little insight into the minds of our Antarctic Fire Angels with the above questions and a big thank you to those who asked then. There will be lots more to come so make sure you keep coming back!

To finish off, here is a little video treat from Nakita all about lockdown and what she is doing to help herself through it. Click on the picture to view.

Remember; stay in, protect the NHS and save lives.

Written by Elissa.

International Women’s Day. (Week 7)

Week ending 8th March 2020

Team LAFA
You might recall last week I talked about Rebecca doing a piece with Harlequins all around International Women’s Day, well go and take a look at the video (click the picture) that’s out for everyone to see.

As all of our team are inspirational women it seems, quite rightly, they were all involved in IWD2020 in some way. Nakita, Rebecca and Nikki did a separate piece for the London Fire Brigade; why not take a look to find out from the guys themselves, what the challenge is and why they are doing this challenge; https://www.instagram.com/p/B9eFd6ojb-W/

In other day to day news, Nikki had her occupational health appointment at work and after completing various exercises with a BA set on her back to demonstrate that her leg could handle it, she has finally been approved to go back to work! She also did a CrossFit induction which means she can get membership at the gym; CrossFit is totally different and she feels it really challenges her, it is amazing preparation for what he will be putting her body through over the next few years. She has also managed to acquire 3 weighted vests from Gravity who are kindly donating them to the team, this is a huge help and great addition to the training days. Like the training isn’t difficult enough already…!

Nakita was involved in LACE training this week on her 2 days off, she loves training in line rescue so had a great time. Check out the picture to the right of Nakita and the team on the training days.

Away from the training and work she also went on her first date in a long time, she might have been nervous but if she can go to the Antarctic she can go on a date, right?

Apart from that Nakita’s training took a bit of a back burner this week as her car needed an MOT but she went for long walks with her youngest dog instead and after 5km he started limping. It wasn’t worth the risk to continue so she called for an emergency evacuation! Pup is fine now but had her worried. She also had some people try and throw negativity into her arena, and that 100% is not going to happen. She has no problem removing those who are negative or try and dull the shine. Life is about helping each other, being supportive and working together. Talking of supportive, don’t forget that although we are celebrating National Women’s Day this week these guys have plenty of men who are there every step of the way to lifted them up…quite literally! (See pic).

Team WAFA
For International Women’s Day at South Wales Fire and Rescue HQ George was invited to speak on the day about what it means to us as women, the service and the wider audience. Beci joined her which was great, it’s always lovely to have some moral support when doing these things. George also got to introduce Lowri Morgan who is an inspiration to us all, what endurance event she hasn’t done isn’t worth knowing! She is absolutely amazing and the team hope they do her proud and follow in her footsteps someday. 

On top of that George is still getting ready for the DSET conference next week where she is presenting to the military amongst other representatives on innovation and communication. It has been quite a bit of pressure to produce something that represents the team AFA and the service but 11th March will be judgement day for all the hard work she has put in. Also on the day there will be an official hand over announcing the team as their 2021 charity of the year!

The 3rd was George’s birthday and she spent the day at Techniquest presenting to 5×50 children all about the Expedition; how to tow tyres, what the weather is like and how dry it is and also how they will go to the toilet out in Antarctica! Talking of towing tyres she has been doing lots of that with the dogs and they love it.

This was all rounded off by a lovely meal in the evening in Penarth. Thank you George, you are truly inspirational. Happy Birthday/
Penblwydd Hapus!

Just as a reminder, the launch of the Good Wash products happened and you need to take a look at the amazing top available? (Don’t forget to go and buy one). There was also the launch of some amazing deals from KitTags UK. They did a run of freebie tags when you donated £10 to the GoFundMe Page. They might all be gone now, but head over to the KitTag website and take a look, you’ll never lose your luggage or bags again with these tags.

Finally, some of you may have heard of Kay Hallsworth, she is co-owner of Explorers Coffee who sponsor our Fire Angels. More importantly she is also Commander Kay Hallsworth of the Royal Navy and she was shortlisted for Women in Defence Unsung Heroes Award! She’s been in the Royal Navy for over 27 years, progressing from student nurse to Commander and Kay also has ME (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis). I found an inspiring and interesting article on her here; https://civilservice.blog.gov.uk/2019/05/03/personal-disability-stories-10-kays-story/

Hope you are all feeling inspired, whether you are a woman or support one in life, keep doing what you’re doing! In light of the current situation in our country and the world, just a reminder. Stay Safe. Stay In.

Written by Elissa

Be Kind. Always. (Week 5)

(Week ending 21st Feb 2020)

Team WAFA
This week has sadly been a bit of a write off training wise for the WAFA’s as it was all about their day jobs. It all started this week with the horrific weather I am sure we have all encountered and with Wales experiencing the worst flooding it has had in decades; this meant that Beci spent Sunday trying to help people locally in the immediate aftermath and the following days getting aid to those who needed it most. Alison was also involved with helping those effected by the floods and has also been fighting off a chest infection which unfortunately seems to be winning at the moment; she is off on a two week holiday so hoping to rest and recuperate. Although the holiday is playing on her mind because it means that her training will potentially suffer and being the oldest of the group she doesn’t want to slip behind. We are with you all the way Alison!

On Friday George, Beci and Alison had a meeting with Donna and Jenna discussing how the team can give some development opportunities to Fire Cadets and Volunteers in South Wales Fire and Rescue Service and how they could help with some fundraising. It was hugely productive and both Donna and Jenna were blown away with what the team have already put in place and the plans for the challenge ahead. For Alison it’s an interesting situation when she tells someone all about their expedition because in her head it doesn’t seem such a big challenge, that is until she sees the reaction from someone else! I guess that is what brings it home to them, it reminds them all that what they are working up to is truly phenomenal.

Alison also managed to sort out some old fire kit that couldn’t be reused and along with George collected it from stores to be used to make the bears for the schools talks. Do you guys remember Elizabeth Sews? She uses old clothing to make memorable and special bears; she will be using the old kit along with some uniform from each school to get a bespoke bear made for each school talk.

Aside from all the flooding, George did manage to get some training in and actually went on a 4 hour tyre drag…yes, 4 hours! Check out the picture to the left; that’s George on her tyre drag at Merthyr Mawr. Don’t forget all of this is to simulate the feeling of pulling the sled that the team will have to pull whilst in the Antarctic.

On this epic trek, George just so happened to have a little mishap which she wrote a poem about and we love it;
‘I wandered lonely as a cloud
Dragging my tyres, oh so proud.
Then there came a terrible smell
Yes I thought, I know that wiff well.
I’d dragged my tyres through some poo
But oddly thankful it wasn’t on my shoe.’

It has also been a hard week for all of us, well all of us who understand that this world needs to change; I am of course talking about the heartbreaking and tragic news of Caroline Flack. There is so much that could be said and yet I feel it is all too little too late, especially for Caroline. The journey most of us are on in this world is long and hard, you have to keep going and keep your head up when faced with tragedy and sorrow. You have to remember that not every day is easy, not every day reminds you that it is worth it but it is SO important to talk to people. Talk to friends and family about how you are feeling, don’t hide behind the fake smiles and chat; we all have demons that sit waiting in our darkest thoughts, waiting for you to fall back into the sea of black that pulls you under. To think that taking her own life is the only choice Caroline had is truly horrific and so so tragic, my heart goes out to her, her friends and family. And for this amazing group of women it has hit home that raising awareness of all mental health issues is something that needs to happen.

Team LAFA
Nikki went for a walk around Devil’s Punchbowl this week for a bit of training with her friend and her twins (who also happen to be Nikki’s goddaughters) in rucksacks on our backs (see picture). They are over 10kg each so this was a great way to train until she can acquire some weighted vests!

She has also been working on the website design, how it should look, what needs to be on there, what it needs to say so that when they sit down with the designer they are ready to go full steam ahead.

All this has helped take Nikki’s mind off her ‘shark bite’. Having had a medical at work this week she was told she was not allowed back due to her significant injury and that her body needs time to heal. The next medical is 2nd March and she is hoping for the green light! As frustrating as it is for Nikki to want to get back at it, she knows that she must make sure her body is fully recovered.

Nakita has been training hard with the guys at work who have been an amazing support and inspiration; after registering at a new gym she is ready to go full throttle. You may have already seen that Team LAFA released the news that they are going to take part in the London Half Marathon on 29th March 2020 and if you manage to get their GoFundMe Page above £2,000 they will do it in full fire gear! So what are you waiting for? Click the link to donate; https://www.gofundme.com/f/antarctic-fire-angels

This week I will leave you with the words that have been all over social media and are so apt; ‘In a world where you can be anything, be kind. Always.’

Written by Elissa.

Antarctic Fire Angels; Who are they?

Hi and welcome to the Antarctic Fire Angels Blog!

If you want to find out more about these inspirational women you are in the right place! Together they are a force to be reckoned with; inspiring the next generation, pushing all out girl power to the limits, squashing stereotypes and tackling mental health head on!

The Antarctic Fire Angels are six firefighters from London Fire Brigade and South Wales Fire and Rescue Service; Founder of Antarctic Fire Angels and Team Leader Nakita Ross, Co-founder Georgina Gilbert, Nikki Upton, Alison Kibblewhite, Rebecca Rowe and Beci Newton. Together they have over 100 years’ experience and service in the fire brigade and have decided to take on the mammoth and gruelling challenge of being the first all-female emergency service team to cross the Antarctic!

In 2023 they are planning to take a route never done before by an all-female team which will cover 1900km from Berkner Island to the Ross Ice Shelf. That means they will be covering around 27km every single day in temperatures as low as -50 and all in around 70 days! It will be a huge undertaking where their nerves of steel, grit and determination will be pushed to the max.

This blog will introduce you to the team and their own reasons for being part of this dynamic and empowering group taking on this challenge together.

It all started at a WFS (Women in the Fire Service UK) event in 2019. The previous year Nakita gave an Urban Search and Rescue workshop which Georgina had signed up to; this is where the two met and instantly became friends. Fast forward to 2019 and the keynote speaker was Sophie Montague, adventurer and record holder for Ice Maiden who was also part of the first female team to ski across the Antarctic continent. Both in attendance it ignited a fire within Nakita and Georgina who were so inspired that they decided to start planning their own Antarctic challenge!

With huge support from family and friends, along with all firefighters in their brigades they start their training this year. They will take on a huge variety of different events and expeditions to ensure they are as ready as they can be when it comes to the real thing whilst still keeping up with their day jobs! Training consists of a Cross Country skiing course, mountain navigation, crevasse rescue, polar expedition training and entering events as a team like the Blue Light Stair Run in May this year.

We all have our own struggles in life, our own stories to share. We all have demons that push us to our limits, push us to take on challenges and conquer things that have never been done before. These six inspirational firefighters are no different; they all have their own moving and empowering stories to share, how they are dealing with mental health and how some have overcome huge life events to be where they are today. Over the coming months we will delve into those journeys so far and get an insight in to how they are using this challenge to support each other and more importantly spread the word. This is about women empowering women in a positive way whilst raising awareness of mental health and pushing towards a change in boundaries set by society.

The expedition will be funded by donations to total £500,000, but the team also want to raise money for the charities they are supporting along the way;
The Fire Fighters Charity – https://www.firefighterscharity.org.uk/
The Fawcett Society – https://www.fawcettsociety.org.uk/
Harlequins Foundation – https://www.harlequins.foundation/

If you feel inspired by what this team plan to do and why they plan to do it and want to support them then please check out the website below;
https://www.gofundme.com/f/antarctic-fire-angels

Don’t forget to check back for our weekly updates with all the news and events our Fire Angels are taking on over the coming months and years to get themselves ready for their big adventure! Meet the team and learn more about the charities they want to raise money for and the companies who are sponsoring them.

This adventure will surely go down in history so jump on board and come for the ride as we follow every step with this epic team!

Next up; an introduction to the team starting with the 3 firefighters from London led by Team Leader and founder of the Antarctic Fire Angels, Nakita Ross.

Written by Elissa.