Real Voices interview: Angela Curnick
Meet Angela, a long-serving firefighter in the London Fire Brigade
Why did you join the Fire Brigade?
I wanted a profession where I could work with members of the public in a caring capacity. And something that was challenging, where every day would be different. Most women have the skills needed. The main quality of a firefighter is not physical fitness, but to work well in a team, have good interpersonal skills and stay calm in stressful situations.
Are there any other women on your team?
Not at Dowgate Fire Station in the City of London, where I work. I’m watch manager, in charge of the station, with five or six firefighters under me – all men. But there are three other women at surrounding stations. The Fire Brigade has a cluster system, so that women get a chance to see other women at incidents.
Do you think you get more attention (positive or negative) from your colleagues because you are a woman?
I personally don’t; I’m a strong character and don’t get any negative attention. I get lots of positive attention – encouragement with progress – in equal measure to the men.
Are there colleagues who have preconceptions about your ability to do your job well because you are a woman?
In all athletic sports women don’t compete directly against men. But to be a female firefighter, women have to take the same entrance tests – physically and academically, including spatial awareness tests – and carry out the same intense training and continuing development as the men. If you pass all that, you get respect.
Are there members of the public who have preconceptions about your ability to do your job well because you are a woman?
Some members of the public are shocked: they say, “I’ve never seen a female firefighter before.” But at an incident it’s not an issue.
Do you think you are treated differently by your colleagues because you are a woman, and in what ways?
No. We’re all individuals with our own qualities and abilities, whether we’re male or female. We’re part of a team.
Are there some parts of the job you can’t do because you are a woman?
No. There’s absolutely nothing a female firefighter can’t do that a male firefighter can. We use heavy machinery and carry people out like the men. Of course, everyone uses their individual attributes in a situation: I’m small, so I can get into tiny spaces.
Would you recommend the career to other women?
Most definitely. It’s the best job I’ve ever had; I go to work every day with a smile on my face. That’s why I’m doing this interview, because we’re trying to recruit women to the Fire Brigade. It’s not for everyone, but I hope girls will read this and consider it as a career.