St Neots firefighter backs campaign to get more women to join service
- Credit: WFS/ Cambs Fire and Rescue Service
A firefighter based in St Neots is encouraging more women to join the service after she re-trained when moving to the area from Poland.
Agata Wieczorek, watch commander at St Neots Fire Station, was runner up in the WFS ‘Women Firefighter Rising Star’ category’s awards 2020.
After moving to the UK from Poland, Agata joined Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service as an on-call firefighter in 2012, aged 26.
Agata became a wholetime firefighter in 2015 and undertook the IC1 course which would allow her to take charge of a fire appliance.
In 2019 she became a wholetime crew commander. Agata attended several WFS training and development events to gain greater insight into the challenges and opportunities faced by women in the service.
“I moved to the UK when I was 19, I was straight out of high school. Initially, I worked in the care sector, doing long hours at work while learning the language,” Agata explained.
“I’d started a part-time university course, but had to decide between finishing my course or pursuing the role of an on-call firefighter. I chose on-call!
“I gave everything I had to be as good as I could be. After a few years, I successfully got into the wholetime service too.”
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Women make up less than eighteen per cent of the total workforce in England—only seven per cent of those are firefighters. The figure for retained (on-call firefighters) is just over six per cent.
Agata said: “I was passing the station every day thinking what if? I didn’t have the courage to apply for a while, mainly because I’m a woman from another country.
“But one day I thought I’d give it a go. What’s the worst that can happen?”
Agata said it was her father, who had was a volunteer firefighter in Poland, who inspired her to join the service.
“If this is something that interests you, just give it a go. It will be physically demanding, it will challenge your resilience, but it will be worth it! I love every minute of it,” she added.
WFS Vice-Chair, Caroline Anderson, is convinced that the more women are supported in the fire service and are visible as role models, the more likely girls and women will see it as a career path too.
Visit the NFCC’s on-call firefighters website to find out more about the role and to register your interest.