Women Firefighters Taster Day

More women are being encouraged to become firefighters by enrolling with Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service.

A third “taster” day just for women will be held at Shrewsbury fire HQ on July 19 after two successful previous events in Craven Arms and Oswestry.

The brigade wants to attract more women to join the county’s 300 plus “on call” fully trained firefighters who deal with around the clock emergencies.

More “on call” fire crew, who live or work within five minutes of 22 often rural county fire stations, are needed to turn out for a set number of hours each week to answer 999 calls. They must attend weekly drill nights and are trained to a high skill level.

The job description includes being physically fit and reliable but the brigade is keen to “dispel the myths” that firefighters must be “super strong” or male.

Taster day visitors can talk to women firefighters, find out what the duties involve, tour the fire station and get recruitment and career information.

Mother of two Ruth Walkerdine, who is one of three women based at Hodnet fire station, said recruits had to be physically very fit to join Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service.

“Before I joined I had good cardio fitness but I needed to do upper body strength training because I had to use muscles I’d never used before. Men are stronger than us but we have to be able to lift a certain amount.”

Shropshire has one of the highest proportion of “on call” firefighters in the UK with 80 per cent of its brigade made up of highly skilled recruits who work a designated number of hours each week.

They turn out to deal with a wide range of emergencies including car crashes, house and business fires, water rescues, floods, building collapses and animal rescues.

They also work hard to educate the public in fire prevention as part of a community fire safety role.

“We want to dispel the myths that firefighters have to be large, burly, macho or super strong,” said organiser Laura Kavanagh-Jones.

“Women have been firefighters in Shropshire for many years. It’s good pay, brings lots of public recognition and you work close to home.”

New recruits have to pass job related physical tests proving they can work in confined spaces, are confident at heights and strong enough to put a 13.5 metre ladder back onto a fire appliance with other crew members.

Tests carried out at the brigade’s training school at Telford fire station include
applicants having to climb a ladder, carry equipment wearing full fire kit around a course for almost six minutes and negotiate a blind gallery area wearing breathing apparatus. They also have to carry an adult sized dummy along a 13 metre course within 41 seconds and pull apart and reassemble equipment in just over five minutes.

Would be recruits will be able to look at some of the physical fitness tests required to join the service and talk to a fitness instructor.

The taster day starts at 9.30am on July 19. For more information contact Laura at brigade HQ on 01743 260189 or visit www.shropshirefire.gov.uk

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Pete White Pete White

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