A fearless firefighter is using her experience to encourage more women to follow in her footsteps – in the hope that one day she can lead an all-female crew!
Sarah Iceton is a Watch Manager at Gateshead Community Fire Station and has worked for Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service (TWFRS) for almost 15 years.
She worked in a pharmacy straight out of school but was starting to get a bit bored of the same old routine.
Sarah has now revealed she could have ended up pulling on a different uniform – if it wasn’t for a shortage of stamps at the corner shop.
The mother of two said: “I initially filled out an application for the Police and the Fire Service but only had one stamp to post it.
“So I popped it on the Fire Service application and sent it off and never looked back – I didn’t end up posting the Police application and I’m glad I didn’t.
“I have loved my role in the Fire Service and I’ve worked extremely hard to get to where I am now, and now I want to be role model for other women looking to join the Service.”
When Sarah joined in 2007, there weren’t many female firefighters in TWFRS, something that has changed a lot during her 15 years.
“There are now three women on my watch including myself – it won’t be much longer until we have a fully female crewed appliance and I can’t wait to be a part of that.
“I think people still think that firefighters are big burley blokes, and yes of course there will always be, but there are more women in the Service than ever before.
“We bring different skills to the Service, it’s not always about being the biggest and strongest – it’s about being there in peoples worst hour and helping them keep going.”
Back when Sarah started in 2007 there was only one other woman on her course and only a few female firefighters overall in the organisation.
She’s had to work to prove not just her own worth but the worth of her gender after being met with disbelief that she could actually do the role.
The 38 year old said: “I’m glad I went through what I did because now I know when a woman comes onto not just my watch, but any watch in our service, she’s treated with the same level as respect as the men.
“Everyone goes through the same training course and if they can get through it they can become a firefighter, once they are on station they realise very quickly their watch is one big family ready to help.”
And today (Monday) TWFRS’s most senior female firefighter is echoing her sentiments and calling for more females to apply to become firefighters.
Assistant Chief Fire Officer Lynsey McVay said: “Its women like Sarah who are working hard to change the public perception of firefighters.
“I know what it’s like to be a women in the fire service and I know how rewarding of an experience it can be.
“Yes it’s a physical job but we also need people with great communications skills who are compassionate and willing to learn to become key members of our service.
“Firefighters don’t need to look alike to be part of our family and we want more people to join the service from all walks of life and career histories as they bring a unique perspective to our way of thinking.”
TWFRS are recruiting firefighters via their website continuously for the next few years.
You can sign up for pre-registration now on their website, visit www.twfire.gov.uk for more information.