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Emergency services / Appeal for more women to become firefighters

Firefighters Amy Gerrard (right) and Kate Wills. Photo supplied by Scottish Fire and Rescue Service

A ‘WOMEN only’ firefighter recruitment event is set to take place next month in a bid to encourage more females across Shetland to sign up to the service.

The event, due to take place at the Lerwick fire station on 17 April, comes in response to a lack of women attending recent recruitment taster events.

Amy Gerrard, who has been a firefighter in Lerwick for around three and a half years, said it was “disappointing” that no females turned up a recent event in the town.

“We decided to run a women only event which will be run entirely by female firefighters to try and attract more females across Shetland,” she said.

Shetland MSP Tavish Scott said it was a “great initiative”.

The fire service’s poster.

At the moment there are 14 female firefighters in Shetland, and this was boosted thanks to a previous recruitment course, where three of the six trainees were female.

Bucking the trend somewhat, two French women joined the crew in Fair Isle last year, working with station manager Fiona Mitchell and another female member.

There are 60 firefighter vacancies in total throughout Shetland at the moment, with rural stations – particularly in the islands – low on retained staff.

“It’s really achievable to become a fire fighter,” Amy said.

“It’s a challenge but you’ll become part of a close knit team who will help you realise your potential.”

At the women’s event staff will be demonstrating aspects of the practical selection test, and attendees can try it out for themselves.

Because of this, anyone interested in coming along is asked to wear suitable clothing and footwear.

Amy suggested that stereotypical gender roles may have a part to play in the low number of females coming forward to become fire fighters – not just locally, but nationally too.

“I wonder if it goes back to the cliche where it’s still very much viewed as a male dominated job,” she said.

“It’s not just us that’s holding female only sessions – I know the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service are running a campaign just now called Positive Action, and they too are trying for a big push, just to make it wider known that females are more than capable of doing their job as well.”

Amy said her job “ticks all the boxes for me – I love working as part of a team, I enjoy new challenges, I love learning new skills, and probably the biggest part for me was being able to serve my community and give something back.”

She added that staff will be on hand at the event to answer any questions or respond to any fears, and the firefighter encouraged anyone interested to “don’t hold back – just go for it.”

Local MSP Tavish Scott, who has previously spoken out about firefighter staffing issues in the isles, hailed the new recruitment strategy.

“This is a great initiative and I would encourage women who are interested in playing a role in our local emergency services to go along,” he said.

“We need more people to train as volunteer firefighters and this is a sensible way to encourage more women to get involved.”

The recruitment event on 17 April will start at 6pm and people should come for that time.

For anyone thinking about joining the fire service, contact the Lerwick station on 01595 692318.