GALLERY & VIDEO: Cambs Fire Service launches campaign to recruit more female firefighters – so reporter Kath ‘has a go’

Kath Sansom prepares to climb a ladder with the support of firefighter Rachel Casbon and Ben Fawcitt

Kath Sansom prepares to climb a ladder with the support of firefighter Rachel Casbon and Ben Fawcitt. Pictures: HELEN DRAKE - Credit: Archant

Women are being urged to consider a firefighting career as part of a campaign to attract more females to the role with a have a go day taking place next month.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LLO9kvxxXdA

The campaign comes hot on the heels of figures which show that, out of 454 firefighters in Cambridgeshire, 21 are women.

It is part of a drive to quash the image that firefighters have to be strapping, super-fit, super beings.

And, after taking part in a media ‘have a go’ day I realised that being a good firefighter is less about physical prowess and more about being a great team player who is calm in stressful situations.

Watch commander Danny Kelly, said: “The days of the tall, burly firemen, are gone. There is a certain amount of fitness required but in reality there is more to this job in terms of mental challenges.”

Kath Sansom pulls an 8st 7lb dummy during one of the training drills, watched by training instructor

Kath Sansom pulls an 8st 7lb dummy during one of the training drills, watched by training instructor Brett Mills. - Credit: Archant


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Firefighter and training instructor Ben Fawcitt added: “It’s not just physical strength, it’s more about finding different solutions to the problems you are likely to face as a firefighter.”

Standing at over 6ft tall with broad shoulders, Mr Fawcitt is used to incidents that would have benefited from a shorter crew member.

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“Smaller built firefighters are better for squeezing into small spaces to make a rescue,” he said. “Plus, women bring a different element to the role.”

‘Staying calm is key’

Reporter Kath Sansom completes the cage challenge

Reporter Kath Sansom completes the cage challenge - Credit: Archant

Every wannabe firefighter must pass seven tests which check physical fitness, strength, mental agility, the ability to climb to the top of a 13m ladder.

One of the tests is a cage run, which involves wearing a mask while crawling through a three-storey set of cages – first with the help of a small amount of daylight and secondly in darkness.

All was fine, until I had a cage run claustrophobia nerves wobble.

I don’t go in lifts, I don’t like being in rooms without windows, I don’t even like being in the back of a three-door car, but with the support of training fire crew I battled my nerves and completed the test with daylight.

For me it was a huge lesson in how staying calm is key – the fact I completed the test at all is full credit to their supportive teamwork and steady encouragement.

It made me realise how, were I in their care during a rescue, their support would make me feel incredibly reassured.

• If you think you have what it takes, then book your place on the ‘have a go’ day at Huntingdon Fire Station on Saturday, February 7.

The morning session is for men and the afternoon session, from 1-4pm, is for women. Places must be booked by calling 01480 444500. Cambridgeshire is always recruiting on-call firefighters. You must live or work within five minutes of a fire station. The service is also recruiting for full-time firefighters in February. Applications open on February 21.

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