Most women dream of being rescued by a firefighter, but I found myself battling a fire and dragging a casualty – who weighed more than me – to safety.
Time was of the essence as I put on the heavy breathing apparatus, rolled out the hose and doused the flames with strong blasts of water.
Of course, the dedicated team at Featherstone fire station weren’t allowing me to tackle real fires or rescue real people – but this was a taste of what budding firefighters will have to endure to prove they have what it takes to become one of the team.
My main aim of experiencing being a firefighter for the day was to encourage more women to get apply for jobs in the fire service. The retained fire station in Featherstone already has female crew commander, Jane Lingard, a firefighter with more than 12 years experience, but as part of an appeal for new recruits, a drive for more women has been launched.
The station’s watch commander, Adam Smith, said: “I would like to see more women in the fire service in the future.
“It’s not just a male dominated job anymore. West Yorkshire Fire Service is trying to reflect the local community by involving people, like full-time mums, who maybe haven’t ever considered a career in the fire service.”
My colleagues had joked that there would be a repeat performance of the scene in Bridget Jones’ diary when she humiliates herself whilst sliding down a fireman’s pole – but these poles aren’t used any more and the fire service has come a long way from the days of there only being fire men.
I can’t deny even the basic fire fighting drills were gruelling, especially for a woman who is five foot tall and weighs eight stones, but rightly so when lives could depend on the right candidate. I was put through my paces during my morning at the Featherstone station and it gave me a real insight into the way firefighters are selected. Physical and mental strength are an absolute must, but what struck me was the sheer variety of tasks firefighters have to be ready to perform, aside from tackling blazes and serious road accidents.
Rolling out the hose reel in itself was a huge challenge – especially because of my stature – and I had to muster all my strength as I attempted to pull the red coil up to eye level. Despite my determination, however, I had to admit defeat. It left me out of breath and overheating in all the protective gear.
As much as I’d like to believe I could be physically fit enough to be a firefighter, it was obvious that my height and lack of upper body strength would be a huge stumbling block for me to overcome.
However I thoroughly enjoyed my experience and would highly recommend women to apply. It certainly isn’t for the faint-hearted but I think it would be hard to find a more rewarding and varied job.
Who knows, if journalism doesn’t work out for me, I might even apply!
- Would-be on-call firefighters can now try before they apply to see if the strenuous job is for them.
Applicants will be suited and booted and pushed to their limits during challenges which will test their upper body strength and stamina.
The sessions, which take place at West Yorkshire Fire Service headquarters in Birkenshaw, are designed to be as lifelike as possible and to prove what a physically and mentally demanding role it can be.
The sessions are on Monday, November 17 and Wednesday, November 19 from 5pm to 9.30pm, Saturday, November 22 from 8.30am to 1pm and Sunday, November 23 from 8.30am to 1pm and 2pm to 6.30pm.
To register your interest in attending a session visit www.westyorksfire.gov.uk and complete the online form.
For more information visit www.westyorksfire.gov.uk/careers