The five female firefighters from around the county went on duty at 7am on Sunday (March 8) as part of the world-wide event with the aim of breaking down gender stereotypes surrounding the fire and rescue service.
The crew, led by Watch Commander Beth Parry-Evans, welcomed a number of guests to the fire station on Maltravers Road for a talk led by Chief Fire Officer Sabrina Cohen-Hatton, as well as the chance to have a go at some operational drills.
Beth, who works fulltime at the town’s station, as well as providing retained (on-call) cover at Shoreham Fire Station, said it had been a vision realised to celebrate International Women’s Day with an all-female crew.
She said: “I think this is the first time that this has ever been achieved, certainly in West Sussex, but it is fantastic way of breaking down gender stereotypes and encouraging women to start considering a career in the fire service.
“I joined WSFRS in 2002, initially serving wholetime at Crawley, and women in the fire service were pretty few and far between, even in 2002. We were almost a separate entity. But the service has come such a long way in that time, and is definitely far more inclusive today.
“More and more women are realising that you don’t need to be a six-foot-tall burly man in order to be a firefighter. It’s about being part of a team, and a team is far stronger when it is made up of people from all different walks of life with different skills and abilities.
“Hopefully our event today has shown people that there is far more to a career with the fire service than they maybe initially thought and empowered some of our guests to consider going for promotion within the service, and hopefully given them the confidence to do so.”
The event comes after Chief Fire Officer Sabrina Cohen-Hatton was invited to attend an International Women’s Day event at 10 Downing Street last week alongside female pupils from schools across the UK and women who lead in their fields.
She said: “Encouraging women to join the fire service is a challenge faced by all fire and rescue services up and down the country, but the work that Beth and her crew have put in today just goes to show what a rewarding life the fire service can provide.
“I am immensely proud of all of their hard work, especially today as they mark International Women’s Day. They are fantastic ambassadors for West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service and are testament to what can be achieved by breaking down gender stereotypes.”