Claire Duke - Watch Manager
When I joined the service over 23 years ago you never saw any female firefighters. I joined my trainee course with 27 other recruits, all male. However I quickly realised we all had the same skill levels and no one had the advantage over anyone else. After that I settled in really easily and I quickly got over my initial nerves.
Over the years, the number of female firefighters has increased significantly and there’s now a really strong group of women within SYF&R.
Looking for the right career
My favourite aspect about being a firefighter is the variety of work there is to undertake, no two days are the same. You have such a choice of which direction you want to go with your career, whether you want to stay as a firefighter or progress into different areas such as training or community safety work.
After spending 16 years on a station I decided to move into training within the service. I currently work as a General Instructor at the Training and Development Centre. As a team we offer support to the operational firefighters by giving them their ongoing training, particularly around safety.
Joining the family
The watch has a real family feel which makes station life a lot of fun. Because we spend a lot of time together we are a very close-knit group and the friendly environment makes the days really enjoyable.
We rely on each other all the time, particularly when we go out to incidents. We constantly watch each other’s backs, helping each other when we need to. When the job becomes physically demanding, it’s about looking where you can take over and give your colleague chance to recover. Back at the station we support each other which is crucial if you’ve attended a particularly tough incident.
Working with communities
Thankfully the number of incidents firefighters attend are decreasing, but this doesn’t mean there’s time to relax. When we’re not attending incidents we take part in training within the station which can include fitness training and practical training - ladder drills, breathing apparatus drills etc.
Our work within the community forms a big part of our role and we spend a lot of time visiting schools, homes and community events. We also carry out site specific risk assessments for business’ and organisations that deal with hazardous materials or have a lot of people working within the company.