IZZY RYAN proves that childhood dreams do sometimes come true. The 26-year-old wanted to be a firefighter since the age of four and she is now working on White Watch at Paddington Fire Station. Originally a student of sport science, Izzy jumped at the chance to join when firefighter recruitment opened in London and she has never looked back.
Why did you decide to become a firefighter?
When I was four years old, I attended a fire station open day, watched the drill demonstration and was fascinated. I then sat on the front of the fire engine and from that point on I always wanted to be a firefighter.
What were you doing before joining up?
I worked in a sports centre as a sports assistant while I was at secondary school and college. I then went on to St Mary’s University to study sport science. During my final year, I got a job with the London Fire Brigade as an education officer. This job involved me going into schools to educate children on fire safety.
Luckily, once my dissertation was handed in to my tutors, firefighter recruitment opened at London Fire Brigade that same day. I was so excited the day had finally come for me to apply for my dream job.
Did your first day live up to expectations?
My first shift was a night shift. I was both nervous and excited. I’d barely got my brand new uniform out of the box when we got a ‘shout’. Immediately, the adrenaline was pumping and my heart started racing.
As I slid down the pole for the first time as a fully fledged firefighter and sat in the fire engine with the siren blaring and blue lights flashing, I was like an excited kid. My childhood dreams had finally come true.
That first job was a fire at a fish and chip shop and I helped make sure the public were safe, as well as ‘dampening down’, which means I made sure the fire was totally out. Afterwards, I was buzzing.
When did you first realise you’d picked the right job?
From the moment I rolled out my first length of hose, to putting my first breathing apparatus set on at training school, I knew that this was the job for me.
One incident in particular stands out — I had only been in the job for two months. In March 2016, there was a huge fire at a restaurant in Hounslow. Ten fire engines attended as there were cylinders inside the property. We rescued 13 people that day, and afterwards we were awarded an Assistant Commissioner’s certificate of commendation.
Do you drink a lot of tea on a shift?
No, I’m not really a tea fan although I can make a mean cup of tea. Before shift I like to get in the gym as it’s the best way to start work — it makes me feel refreshed and energised for the shift ahead. Although, after a busy night shift, a coffee is definitely appreciated.
What do people not know about being a firefighter?
A lot of people seem to think we only attend fires. We are a fire and rescue service but people tend to forget that. We attend RTCs (road traffic collisions), floods, animal rescues, incidents at height, flooding and water rescues.
Even now, people are still shocked to see female firefighters and are blown away with the idea that women drive the fire engines — I have definitely had some odd looks when driving the fire engine on blue lights.
Have you ever saved a cat from a tree?
Yes, I’ve saved a few cats out of trees — and pigeons stuck behind fireplaces. Although we’ve been called to these incidents, we always recommend that people call the RSPCA in the first instance if they see an animal stuck or in distress. Firefighters love animals and we’re always happy to assist if our specialist equipment is required.
What advice do you have for any other would-be firefighters?
From my experience, supporting others trying to join the Brigade, and from going through the process myself, I believe the best advice is to give every aspect your best and not to give up. The recruitment process will test you physically and mentally.
What makes all the hard work worth it?
We go to such a diverse number of calls, with a variety of incidents, most of the time we’re helping people at the worst moments of their lives.
If we can make this situation any easier for them, I believe we have done our job. We will do our best at every incident we attend. I love my job and I love helping people.
What it takes to join the fire service…
A level 2 or 3 Diploma in Public Services can be taken before applying to the fire service, but it’s not essential, with many candidates going through an apprenticeship, volunteering in a support role or making a direct application.
London Fire Brigade is not actively recruiting at this time but anyone interested in applying to work for the Brigade should check the career’s website for vacancies (london-fire.gov.uk/careers).
The Brigade is currently running online information days for women so if anyone is interested in being a firefighter then they can sign up for a two-hour session. You’ll get to go on a virtual tour of a fire station and have any questions answered.
The starting salary for trainee firefighters nationally is £23,833 rising to £37,984 when fully trained. In London it’s between £27,750 and £37,984. Higher rates apply for overtime.