It seems that the British Fire & Rescue Service with its multiple skills, dedication and wide range of operational and humanitarian work is rarely out of the media headlines most days, but recent events have again put FRS’s in the media spotlight for some disparate reasons.
In this age of equality, an ongoing subject is without doubt the question of titles – should it be fireman or firefighter?
Alex Johnson, the temporary Deputy Chief Fire Officer of South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service, has said: ‘Fireman Sam is putting women off joining the fire service because most of the job is nothing like it is portrayed.’ Ms Johnson believes the images of men rushing into burning buildings does little to encourage gender equality.
She is campaigning to attract more women into the 999 service with just 5.2% of firefighters in England women. In 2017 there were 1,838 female firefighters compared to 33,782 male firefighters.
‘Children’s shows like Fireman Sam don’t help to break down stereotypes either. We do community and youth engagement work, where we need to be seen to be representative of the population. Women and people from different ethnic backgrounds are simply not considering being a firefighter because they are not seeing themselves represented.’
These comments come after Dany Cotton, London’s Fire Commissioner, revealed last year that she had been bombarded with abuse and had hate mail sent to her workplace after launching a campaign to encourage people to refer to ‘firefighters’ rather than ‘firemen’.
She had suggested that Fireman Sam should be renamed Firefighter Sam as part of a campaign to encourage more women to consider a role in the fire brigade. Fireman Sam was first aired in 1987 and finally recruited a female crew mate, Penny, in 2003, although Sam continues to save the day in most episodes.
A spokeswoman for Mattel, which represents the Fireman Sam brand, said the company was committed to representing the work of all firefighters appropriately through the show where the team are always referred to as firefighters except Sam, whose title has not evolved in his role as the show’s namesake.
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