Cambridgeshire’s first female firefighter retires after 30 years

Janette at work in the late 1980s.

Janette at work in the late 1980s. - Credit: Archant

Cambridgeshire’s first female firefighter has called it a day after 30 years distinguished service.

Janette and the rest of the crew at Cottenham in the 1980s.

Janette and the rest of the crew at Cottenham in the 1980s. - Credit: Archant

Crew Commander Janette Richards, 55, has retired from the on-call station at Cottenham.

The mother-of-one followed in her brother’s footsteps and joined Cambs Fire and Rescue in 1984.

At the time there was a height restriction and, even though she didn’t meet it, managers allowed her to join and monitored whether her height was an issue in training.

She said: “I’d already been associated with the fire service because my brother was a firefighter at Cottenham. They needed more day cover and I thought it was something I could do, especially being brought up with brothers.


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“The fact that I was a 26-year-old woman at the time with a three-year-old daughter didn’t make any difference to me.

“I’ve never had the issue of sexism. I joined as a firefighter and was treated as a firefighter, the same as everyone else.

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“It wasn’t common at the time to see other women in the fire service but I really don’t think it makes a difference what sex you are as long as you can do the job.”

She has attended hundreds of incidents, including fires at the Cambridge sites of Spiller’s Mill and The Regent Hotel, and flooded units in Barnwell Road, for which her crew received praise from a senior officer for their work.

Group Commander Dave Richardson said: “Janette was a pioneer; one of the first women to work in CFRS as a firefighter.

“It is not always easy being one of the first and Janette has always been professional and given her best in the role.

“She was also one of the first female leading firefighters (now called crew commander) and has played an active role in the management team at Cottenham Fire Station. We wish her all the best for the future.”

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