Tide turns for former female lifeguard who joins the fire service

A lifeguard has defied expectations and smashed stereotypes by becoming one of the regions newest firefighters.

Sophie Rogers, 27, recently joined Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service (TWFRS) after a gruelling 14-week training course that pushed her to her limits.

But the petite personal trainer and lifeguard proved everyone she can keep up with her colleagues – despite being towered over by some of her fellow recruits.

After years of working side hustles and roles she wasn’t passionate about, a firefighter friend reached out to Sophie to encourage her to apply.

Sophie was initially concerned that being short would mean she couldn’t be considered for a role but she was soon convinced otherwise.

When Sophie joined her recruits course, she expected to be the only woman, but in fact her 22 person recruits course included four other women.

Now she is encouraging other women to consider life as a firefighter even if they think they don’t fit the stereotype.

Sophie, who is also dyslexic, said: “I’ve wanted to be a firefighter for a long time, but I knew I wasn’t ready previously, I was too young and immature but now I know this is where I need to be.

“I knew I wasn’t happy in my last job, I liked the variety of what I was doing but it just wasn’t giving me the satisfaction but I know that in this role I’m going to thrive because I love helping people.

Sophie added: “Having friends already in role did help, because they did give me advice but I didn’t know how intense it would be going into it, especially as I’m dyslexic.

“I’m glad I told someone about being dyslexic from the beginning because it’s so new and so different I needed the extra help and I’ve had the support I’ve needed.

“I’ve learnt so much on the course, I knew the fire service was more than just putting out fires but I didn’t realise how much it did in the community.

“It’s so nice to be surrounded by women on this course, there are five of us and we are in a similar head space and going through similar things so the opportunity to create these friends for life has been amazing.”

Today TWFRS’s highest-ranking female firefighter is praising Sophie for breaking down boundaries and pursuing her dreams.

Assistant Chief Fire Officer Lynsey McVay said “Sophie has shown that people of all shapes and sizes can be firefighters.

“You need to be empathic and passionate about the role and a good communicator and we can teach you the rest.

“Our recruits’ course is designed to be tough to get you ready for life on station and the incidents you will face but, you will also meet some incredible people with a great passion for keeping their community safe.

“There were five females on this course who have created a close bond with each other that will hopefully last all of their careers.

“It goes to show there is no one size fits all firefighter, we need a diverse range of people to become firefighters who feel able to bring their full selves to work, if we are going to continue to be a great place to work.”

TWFRS are currently not recruiting for whole-time firefighters however; you can register your interest and find out more about the role on their website.

It is expected that recruitment will re-launch in 2024 but those interested in a career with the Service are still encouraged to keep an eye on their website for taster days.