Mr J, a new supporter who lives in the Midlands, recently made a generous donation to the party, and mentioned in passing that he’s a firefighter. I asked him for his experiences of how men and women are treated in the fire service, having heard (and read) a number of disturbing rumours over the years. He had a number of tales to tell, so I asked him to collect them together, and email me. The content of his email is below, and I’ve added and subtracted nothing. Can anyone doubt that lives have been lost, or will be lost – firefighters’ lives and those of others – as a result of this feminist-inspired initiative, just one of countless such initiatives in the public sector in particular? Mr J writes:
I first applied to the fire service in the year 2000. It was about this time when a big recruitment drive was on and there was lots of press coverage encouraging women to join up as they were severely ‘under-represented’.
I passed all fitness, strength and intelligence tests. I was one of approx 170 successful candidates, but unfortunately, only 50 were picked, at random by a computer.
I was then invited by the brigade to re-apply the following year. I was told I’d need to pass all the physical tests again.
During the physical tests, one in particular stood out, as I’d found it challenging the first time. A heavy weight was attached to a rope, via a pulley system, and it was to be hauled up approx 20 feet, and lowered, under control at all times, within a 20 second time limit. I steeled myself to heave on the line and once the Sub Officer gave the command, I gave it a bloody good pull! The weight shot up towards the pullies, coiling spare rope as it went. Gravity grabbed it, and it came hurtling back down again, snapping to a halt. I looked at the Sub, somewhat surprised and he simply said, ‘Carry on son!’ I was successful and I’m still a firefighter today.
A year or two later I was involved in a discussion with a senior management member about the brigade lowering the standard of the strength tests. He denied that was the case and even became irate with me, suggesting I should get my facts straight before opening my mouth. (Numerous colleagues have since told me I HAD got my facts straight!)
Once, whilst at HQ, myself and a colleague decided to approach human resources to ask about future vacancies, for his son and my friend’s daughter. My colleague spoke first and asked about his son joining up and was told ‘He’ll have to keep an eye on the local press because that’s where we advertise whenever there are vacancies’. I then mentioned my friend’s daughter had an interest in joining up, to be told, ‘Tell her to ring this number, and we’ll give her all the details of an upcoming open day for females only. She’ll be able to try all the related tests in advance of the actual test (Mr J – men aren’t given this opportunity) and get a feel for the equipment and what will be required of her’. Naturally my friend was incensed by this blatantly unfair advantage that my friend’s daughter was being given.
I’ve heard, second-hand, of a particular women in tears when faced with a fire, and on one occasion, refusing to enter a fire. I cannot verify this, but knowing the girl in question, I personally believe it to be true.
We’ve also invested in fire trucks that have very expensive air suspension in order for them to be lowered to the point where shorter people can reach the ladder gantries. I also heard, again second-hand, that whilst at training school during a recruit’s course that had a large percentage of female recruits, a ‘4 person’ ladder drill had to be amended to a ‘6 person’ ladder drill as the ladder was too heavy for the female recruits when handled by just 4 people.
On the fire ground, there simply wouldn’t be 6 people available to erect said ladder!
Recently, a very petite and slightly built female firefighter accused an officer of assaulting her – he is alleged to have shoved her aside – and a complaint was made which saw the police arriving at the officer’s door, in full view of family and neighbours. The woman’s own station manager was rightfully very supportive and made sure she wasn’t intimidated or influenced by other firefighters into withdrawing her complaint. I remember being angry myself at this guy for shoving this slip of a girl, indeed several of my colleagues were ready to batter him, frankly.
During a subsequent interview with the girl, she was advised that the entire alleged incident had been caught on CCTV, unbeknown to her! The footage clearly showed the officer concerned innocent of all charges and the girl then went on the sick. She was subject to a disciplinary but incredibly kept her job!!! She has since resigned however. The male officer concerned has had his name dragged through the mud and his reputation tarnished.
We have a system in the fire service for taking a day off when you should be on duty. Basically, it’s a first come, first served basis. You apply for the day you want off, as far in advance as possible, in order to be first in line. As the day draws nearer you can check the system to see where you are in the queue i.e. first, second, third etc.
During a school holiday, myself and several other firefighters that have children, were in the system for a particular day off. I think I may have been third, so was potentially going to get the day off granted.
A female firefighter then appeared on the system at the top of the queue. I immediately rang her, as it was possible she may have had a family funeral or such other serious matter to attend to, in which case there would have been no issue. She told me she had been given the day off to attend a ‘women’s workshop/seminar’. She said she wanted to see what they were all about. I told her I thought this unfair (up to this point we were very close friends) as several people in the queue wanted to be off with their kids. She then sent several very unfriendly texts to my phone telling me that ‘women are here to stay and if you don’t like it, then tough!’ She also said that ‘You should’ve applied for the day off sooner then’ – tho it wouldn’t have mattered when I applied for the day off, as she jumped to the top of the last at the last minute.
There are 2 female firefighters that I have worked with on a regular basis and they are extremely confident and good at their jobs. I would have no hesitation in entering a very dangerous situation with either of them and would be happy knowing my life was in their hands. It’s a matter of having the best people – male or female – in the job.
I’ve also spoken to many Watch managers who’ve voiced concerns that the day will soon come when a fire appliance is crewed in the back by 3 women. Every one of them makes sure that, as far as possible, women on a watch are split up so that they’re on different appliances to prevent the possibility of an all-women Breathing Apparatus team. That said, NO-ONE would dare state this openly.