Female firefighter calls for more women to join the Service

Blagdon Fire Station’s first and only female firefighter is calling for more women to consider joining Avon Fire & Rescue Service.

Katherine Shaw, 26, joined the Service as an on-call firefighter in August 2018 and also works at OCS at Bristol Airport, helping people with reduced mobility or other hidden disabilities travel.

Alongside her other roles, Kat provides 84 hours a week of cover to the station, helping to keep the truck operational and responding to emergencies when needed.

She said: “I’m trying to get the message out to anyone who might be interested, do it! I truly believe that you’ll not regret any amount of time you put into this service.

“It’s no secret that women are underrepresented in the Fire Service. With currently just six per cent of operational staff female, there is definitely room for improvement.

“I’d like to make it clear that the Fire Service will welcome everyone who is able to pass the appropriate testing and put the time into the service.”

“Although female firefighters have been in and around the service for decades, I am regularly shocked by the general publics’ surprise when they see I’m a woman.

“We all pass the same testing, we all work together in the same uniforms and we achieve great things as one big team. No one will be made to feel unwelcome at any station. Come along and give it a go.”

Since joining, Kat has found she has made new friends, learnt new skills and finds satisfaction in helping others – all while getting paid a second income.

Kat said: “I wanted to join the Service to help my community but also I like to keep fit and I felt my skills and experiences matched the role.

“It has also been an excellent way of meeting like-minded people and given me a completely new direction for my future career. You don’t have to want to be a full time firefighter to enjoy this role.

“The skills you learn from it are transferrable to your main employment and home life too. It really is a win win.”

She added: “I currently offer 84 hours a week of cover at Blagdon, which seems like a big commitment. While it may sound scary, I also hold down two other jobs, have hobbies, see my friends and still make my hours without getting stressed about it.

“A lot of the other members of my station have children to add to their ‘to do’ lists as well, and are still able to cover the hours, mostly when they’re asleep. It’s very doable and as on-call firefighters, we rarely get called out of bed.”

“This is a great opportunity to help your community, learn new and amazing skills and push you fitness to new heights.

“What’s more, it’s not all about fires, there’s lots to learn about community work, road traffic collisions and much, much more.”

On-call firefighters use the same fire engines and equipment as their ‘wholetime’ (full-time) colleagues. 

The main difference is that on-call firefighters provide support from their home or workplace, rather than a fire station. Your time is your own too. If you’re unavailable for any reason, that’s ok. Your hours work completely around you.

In the last financial year, crews from Blagdon responded to 120 incidents and on-call firefighters need to live or work within five minutes travelling distance of their station during their hours of declared availability.

On-call firefighters can also earn more than £3,000 a year by offering full cover alongside their family and work life.

Sean Spearing, Blagdon Station Manager for AF&RS, said: “Kat is a fantastic example of some of the amazing ambitious and inclusive staff we have here at Avon Fire.

“Being an on-call firefighter is extremely rewarding, allows you to develop new skills and provides a second income, and we would love for our crews to be more representative of their communities.

“There is a great sense of team spirit among the firefighters who are a vital part of the Avon Fire & Rescue Service family and the on-call work often fits easily around family and work life.

“Those interested are also welcome to visit during drill night to discuss the role or can visit the Yes You Can website for more details.”

For more on on-call recruitment, visit https://yesyoucan.careers/on-call-firefighter