'Being female has never held me back' - new drive to recruit firefighters

Chloe Peek

Firefighter Chloe Peek - Credit: Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service

Three women who have become firefighters are spearheading a campaign to recruit more people to Norfolk's service.

Norfolk Fire and Rescue service has launched an appeal to hire 16 more 'wholetime' firefighters to keep the county safe.

Firefighters with breathing apparatus

Firefighters tackle a blaze in Rackheath. - Credit: Neil Didsbury

Wholetime firefighters work a watch shift pattern of four shifts on (two days, two nights) and then four days off, to ensure stations have cover 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Norfolk Fire and Rescue service currently has about 280 wholetime firefighters.

As well as tackling fires, they deal with other emergencies, such as rescues from height and confined spaces, road traffic crashes, flooding and animal rescues.

They also help cut risk, such as fitting smoke alarms in houses, and educating people about ways to keep their homes safe.

Tim Edwards

Tim Edwards, chief fire officer at Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service. - Credit: Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service

Tim Edwards, chief fire officer at Norfolk Fire and Rescue, said: "The role of a firefighter is varied and interesting, but ultimately it’s about wanting to support your local community and working to protect it and to prevent fires and other emergencies from happening."

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Full training is given, but fire chiefs say the role suits people aged 18 and over who are reasonably fit, like working as part of a team, enjoy helping people and want to make a difference in their communities.

Stations at Carrow, Sprowston, Great Yarmouth, King's Lynn and North Earlham have wholetime firefighters.

Margaret Dewsbury, Conservative councillor for Hingham.

Margaret Dewsbury, cabinet member for communities and partnerships at Norfolk County Council - Credit: Norfolk Conservatives

Margaret Dewsbury, cabinet member for communities and partnerships at Norfolk County Council, which the fire service is part of, said: "We’re excited to be starting the search for Norfolk’s future firefighters as we move into a busy phase for our service."

The application window runs from Monday, May 9 to Sunday, May 29, with details at www.norfolk.gov.uk/fire

'Every day is so different' - four firefighters on why they serve

Ellie Mason, based at Sprowston

Ellie Mason

Firefighter Ellie Mason - Credit: Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service

"I did a degree in journalism and media and started working in an office as a social media executive.

"I had first got into health and fitness in my first year at university, and at work I quickly realised that I wanted to do something that involved being more active.

"I went to visit a couple of fire stations when I moved back to Norfolk in 2019, as I wanted to find out more.

"There are so many different elements to the job of a firefighter you need to be sure you will be able to cope with different situations.

"I tested how I coped with different elements, such as working at height and in confined spaces, as well as finding out about the fitness levels required.

"I carried on working hard with my fitness to prepare for when the recruitment opened in 2020, as I really wanted to give it my best shot.

"I’ve tried all sorts of different classes, including body building, power lifting and cross fit. I applied in 2020 and starting training in February 2021, so I am halfway through my apprenticeship.

"Anyone interested in health and fitness and who wants to help people should think about applying. It’s definitely not a nine to five job but I love that every day is so different."

Chloe Peek, based at Carrow

Chloe Peek

Firefighter Chloe Peek - Credit: Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service

The former hairdresser and paralegal said: "Maintaining health and fitness has always been important to me, however I always viewed the fire service as male dominated and that I wouldn’t be strong enough.

"Although a high level of fitness is required, it isn’t unachievable. You're probably more capable than you think.

"As long as you have the right qualities such as wanting to help others and a willingness to learn, the training will provide you with the practical skills needed.

"I love my job. Everyone I have worked with has been helpful and supportive, and I have never felt that being female has held me back."

Andrea Thake, based at North Earlham

Andrea Thake

Firefighter Andrea Thake - Credit: Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service

Joined the fire and rescue service in February 2021 after a career at sea crewing yachts.

She said: “It’s really important that I do a job that really means something to me, that is rewarding and where I can work in a team."

Nick Howell, based at Great Yarmouth

Nick Howell

Firefighter Nick Howell - Credit: Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service

He said: “I’ve come from a sporting background and the health and fitness side of the job definitely appealed to me.

"Being in those team sports environments also meant that watch life appealed to me.

"We work really closely as a team both in our watch but also across the service.

"The work we do makes a real difference in the community.”