GALLERY: Reporter Kelly finds out what it takes to be a firefighter at taster day

CAMBRIDGESHIRE Fire and Rescue Service held a have a go day to encourage more women to become firefighters. Reporter KELLY GREEN went to the event and was put through her paces to find out what it takes to be a female firefighter.

CAMBRIDGESHIRE Fire and Rescue Service held a 'have a go day' to encourage more women to become firefighters.

Reporter KELLY GREEN went to the event and was put through her paces to find out what it takes to be a female firefighter.

FIFTY-TWO per cent of the working population in Cambridgeshire are female, but astonishingly only 3.2 per cent of all firefighters in the county are female - just 24.

However, the fire service is keen to recruit more, and in a bid to show them how flexible and exciting the job is, they held a recruitment day to encourage more women to join the fire service.

Being a firefighter isn't just a man's job. There are plenty of "lady firemen" already and they feel this is a great job.

Becky Freeman, a firefighter at Ely Fire Station said: "Firefighting is definitely not just a job for the boys. I've been a firefighter for eight years now, in Cambridgeshire and in London.

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"It's a great career as every day is different. I can't imagine doing anything else now."

There are currently six tests that make up the National firefighter Physical Tests - enclosed space, casualty evacuation, ladder climb, ladder lift, equipment assembly and equipment carry.

I tried most of these tests at the session held in Ely, wearing full firefighting uniform - which to my surprise was quite comfortable.

There were some tasks I found much easier than others - for example, I found the ladder climb simple. Wearing a harness, I had to climb a ladder 13.5m up a wall - the equivalent of a two-storey building.

The equipment assembly was also straight-forward, but it was made harder by the gloves I had to wear. They felt like the fingers had been superglued into shape.

And the enclosed space test was a lot of fun, although the breathing apparatus became steamed up as soon as I put it on. I found it difficult to get past some of the obstacles, and I'm a small person. I was surprised that a larger person would fit through.

The ladder lift was difficult - I got the bar, which simulated the weight of a ladder, above my head but didn't have the upper-body strength to lock my arms.

Rosanna Boulton, who made the trip to Ely from Saffron Walden to take part, had the same problem.

She said: "I could just about move the bar, but I couldn't pick it up totally. I think I probably would be able to if I'd done some training though."

The hardest test was the equipment carry - and it was the last test I tried.

I had to drag a hose reel for 25 metres and jog back; carry two coiled hoses for 100 metres; carry one coiled hose at chest height for 25 metres then jog back; pick up and carry a suction hose and basket strainer for 100 metres; jog back; and pick up and carry 30kgs for 100 metres.

It was difficult to keep a good grip of the two coiled hoses, and then became so tired that I had to stop half-way through the course. But it is a good test of stamina and strength.

Overall, the day was a huge success - and I would advise any woman who is thinking about changing careers, or who wants a new challenge, to think about the fire service.

Yes, it is physically tough but really good fun - and there are not many jobs where you go into work not knowing what you might do that day.

Julie Haslett, of Over, said: "I'm seriously looking at a career in the fire service after attending the session. I had a brilliant day. I didn't want it to end."

Tara Knowles, firefighter at March Fire Station said: "I joined the fire service five years ago and I absolutely love it here. It's challenging, but definitely rewarding.

"I would encourage any women in Cambridgeshire to come and have a go and find out for themselves."

• For more information, visit www.cambsfire.gov.uk.