County appeals for more female firefighters

Rachel up the ladder trying out the ladder climb and leg-lock technique. Photo: 2197mf
Rachel up the ladder trying out the ladder climb and leg-lock technique. Photo: 2197mf

Is firefighting a man’s world? Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue keen to recruit more firefighters and, in particular, to encourage more women to join the service, so reporter Rachel Grafton decided to go along to a recruitment session to see first hand what it takes to become a firefighter...

I was invited to Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue’s HQ in Lincoln to see what is required of potential recruits.

Once I was kitted out with the jacket, helmet and very fetching trousers, braces and boots, I was ready to try out the test.

The test has six parts. First up was the simulated ladder lift, where recruits are required to lift the ladder simulator up above their head, with 5kg weights attached and then another 10kg added.

My appalling upper body strength meant I struggled to lift even the unweighted ladder and managed to get the 5kg weighted ladder to about shoulder height before collapsing. Not a good start.

Next, I tried the enclosed space test, a two-level caged maze. Applicants have five minutes to find their way to the end of the maze before being blindfolded and then making their way back to the start.

This one was more successful and I made it through and back in around three minutes, although claustrophobics may struggle with this test.

Then I had a go at the ladder climb. Initially this was simple enough, involving a climb to the top of a 13-metre ladder, but then a ‘leg-lock’ was required where you hook your leg through the rungs to enable you to lean back with your hands free.

The leg-lock is quite tricky and leaning back and looking behind you would be scary for anyone afraid of heights..

The casualty drag was next, where I had to drag a dummy weighing 55kg for 30 metres in less than 41 seconds. I assumed that dragging a mannequin which weighs about the same as I do would be easy...I was wrong! Still, I did manage to accomplish the task, just making the deadline in 39 seconds.

Finally, I tried out the equipment carry, which involved pulling the hose for 25 metres and carrying a rolled-up hose in each hand for approximately 60 metres, as well as holding the hose at chest height and running laps in between, all in around five minutes. I was exhausted and realised that I probably wasn’t cut out to be a firefighter but thankfully there are many other women who are.

Laura Wint-McKain, equality and diversity advisor for Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue, said one of the reasons the number of female firefighters had declined was because people still viewed the role as a male-orientated position.

She said: “We are trying to get across to people that men also struggle with the physical side of things, not just women.”

Emma Schofield is a retained firefighter based at Billingborough. She said that what she loves most about this job is the adrenaline rush.

She said: “Getting out there on a job and preparing yourself for what’s coming and what you have to do gives you a real buzz.”

Metheringham firefighter Laura Peckham said that she enjoys being able to give something back to the community.

Female firefighters are in short supply all over Lincolnshire, but there is an even more pressing need to recruit women to join the village fire crews in your area.

If you would be interested in applying to become a retained firefighter, call freephone 0800 3580204.