A female soldier who challenged stereotypes and travelled the world to keep vulnerable people safe – has returned home to start a new life as a firefighter.
Sarah Bainbridge has served with the British Army in Jordan, Argentina and RAF Digby in Lincolnshire but her heart has always stayed at home in South Shields.
And now as part the biggest Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service’s (TWFRS) recruitment drive in years, Sarah is one of six women to join their ranks.
The 30-year-old passed out in a cohort of 32 firefighters in December and has now joined many women working on the frontline to keep our community safe.
Sarah said “Cliché as it is, I always wanted to experience a job with some high intensity and I’ve always loved a stressful project.
“After University I knew I would never be suited to an office job, so I looked into joining the Fire Service but due to recruitment freeze there was never an opportunity for me to apply so I joined the Army.
“I was born in South Shields and left as soon I could because I wanted to experience more, but now I have my own home on the sea front and I want work in and serve the community where I grew up.”
After a rejection from the Navy due to a too high tattoo, Sarah looked on the British Army website and came across a job as a linguist – a person highly skilled in foreign languages
She is fluent in French, Spanish and Arabic and spent her time in the British Army working as a linguist and translator for six years on high profile projects and with high ranking officers.
Sarah is now living out her dream as she is now based at South Shields Community Fire Station after spending much of her working life away from the North East.
Sarah is now encouraging other women to get involved in the Fire Service by sharing her experience of the intense 12 week training course
She said: “Being back home to work is lush, you miss out on so much when you are abroad and although those experiences are fantastic. I’m glad I can go to weddings and birthday parties and be there for my mam.
“Although the course was stressful when I look back I just think about all the good times we had, the course is made by the people on it.
“I’m not the fittest but I’m not the slowest and I loved the theory side of the course. Even though I had my military background the start of the course can be a bit of a culture shock but you’ve just got to keep going!
“I really like a challenge and I love keeping myself busy so it was a great chance to do that. I also somehow managed to volunteer for Samaritans alongside the course because I’m so used to never stopping.”
Assistant Chief Fire Officer Lynsey McVay, welcomes Sarah and her fellow recruits into TWFRS and encourages more women in the region to become part of the fire family.
She said “It’s heart-warming to know that Sarah and many of our recruits are fulfilling their dreams of becoming a firefighter.
“I know exactly how incredible the experience can be and if they enjoy it even half as much as I have I will be really happy.
“Anyone can be a firefighter, you just have determination, commitment, the heart and people at the core of what you do – we can teach you the rest.
“We still need to work hard to increase the representation of minority communities in the fire service but this latest cohort shows we are making positive steps.
“We hope people like Sarah can help inspire other women to consider a role as a firefighter. It is a mentally and physically tough training course but there is nothing here that a woman can’t do.”
Sarah and her fellow trainees passed out on Friday, December 17th 2021, after completing a string of classroom and practical assessments.