A dream career as a firefighter

Seen with Retained firefighter Charlie Cartwright, left, are some of the women who attended the female firefighter session at Telford Central|Victoria Smith of Church Stretton|Becky Dickens of Wem|Michelle Bowen of Oswestry

A lawyer, personal trainer, mums and office workers from Shropshire came together to take the first step towards realising their "dream career" – as firefighters.

After listening to a presentation and having a tour of the station they all took part in realistic physical activities during taster sessions held at Telford fire station.

A total of 29 women from across the county donned firefighting kit to perform the physically demanding tasks which included having to balance "hands free" 30ft up a ladder, operating a ladder lift and a casualty evacuation exercise.

They also had to crawl in total darkness through tunnels to test spatial awareness skills and their ability to cope in enclosed spaces. This was followed by a "stamina and upper body strength" test which included carrying two 30lb (13.5kg) hose reels along a course quickly followed by 84lb (38kg) weights.

Retained Cleobury Mortimer firefighter Toby Guise, who watched the tests, said: "They are doing realistic activities and they are really tough. They've done very well."

Organiser Natalie Hill, of Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service, said: "We want more women in the fire service and this event has allowed us to remove some of the stereotypical images that they have about the role and give them an understanding of the physical demands of the job."

Lawyer Marie Shoulder, 25, of Masons Close, Newport, a former pupil at the Burton Borough School, said she wanted to swap the legal profession for life as a firefighter.

"I am an outdoor person but as a lawyer I spend too much time sitting behind a desk. It is very frustrating."

Victoria Smith, 27, of Church Stretton, who runs a livery yard at Acton Scott, said: "It is something I have always wanted to do. The activities are physically challenging and it is mentally tough tapping your way through pipes in total blackness but this certainly gives me the chance to see if this is the sort of career I want."

Personal trainer Lucy Deeley, 23, of St Georges, Telford, said: "I have wanted to be a firefighter since I was 16. It is such a varied career where you can help people and educate them about fire safety."

Office worker Annette Marshall, 31, of Stirchley, Telford said: "I love my job but it is not challenging and I do want a career change. I want a career which will get me going."

Ex naval rating Michelle Bowen, of Chirk, who is 5ft 4ins tall and weighs eight stone, completed the stamina activity easily.

"It was hard. But I did it. Since leaving the navy four years ago I crave the camaraderie that you just don't get in civvy street. There is a void in my life and I really want to be a firefighter," said Michelle who now works as a fitness instructor in an Oswestry gym.

Becky Dickens, 27, an office worker from Wem, said: "I have always wanted to help save lives, make people aware about fire safety and help prevent fires from happening in the first place. I have really enjoyed these tests."

Mother-of-two Rosey Williams, 34, of Heath Farm, Mount Pleasant, Shrewsbury, a former care assistant, said she had "always fancied" a change of job.

"These activities certainly let you know how fit you are. I've thoroughly enjoyed it and now I know what fitness levels I will need."

Chief Fire Officer Alan Taylor, who welcomed the women to the fire station, said that those who thought it was a job for them are welcome to apply for a career as a wholetime firefighter or at one of Shropshire's 22 retained fire stations.

"We have had a great response to these taster sessions. We do want to get more women into the fire service and we want them to know that it can be an excellent career choice for them.

"Being a firefighter today is much more than just putting out fires. Community Fire Safety, educating schoolchildren, water rescues, first aid and learning how to use a wide range of sophisticated equipment is just part of the knowledge of a firefighter."

28th November, 2007