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International Women's Day

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Women firefighters are no longer a novelty

By: Dany Cotton

During Dany Cotton's 20 years with the London Fire Brigade she has risen through the ranks to become a Deputy Assistant Commissioner, and is the highest ranking operational woman firefighter in the UK. She was also the first woman firefighter in Britain to be awarded the Queen's Fire Service Medal. The opinions expressed are her own.

International Women's Day on March 8, is significant for me as it's a reminder how far women have come in all industries, but particularly my own.

The term "fireman" is no longer in use within the fire service, but is still part of everyday language, used as a generic term for people who fight fires. I'm proof that women can succeed in the fire service though, and I'm certainly not alone. More women are joining in operational front line roles - as firefighters - and making a real impact.

People sometimes say, "Why does it matter if firefighters are male or female? If my house is on fire, I don't care who rescues me." This is true of course - it really doesn't matter - and all of London's firefighters are highly trained and ready to respond to emergencies.

However, the role of the fire service is changing, and it's no longer simply about attending emergencies. In fact, the work we do now isn't just complemented by a diverse workforce, it demands one.

It's no coincidence that fires, and fire deaths, are decreasing. Today's fire and rescue service is very much about prevention rather than cure, with firefighters visiting vulnerable people in their homes, attending schools and working with businesses to ensure their premises are safe ... more

Copyright 2009 Thomson Reuters. Click for Restrictions.

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