Empowering Women: Celebrating Excellence in the Fire Service – The Women in Fire Service UK Awards 2024

Women in the Fire Service UK (WFS) are a not-for-profit organisation that primarily supports women in all Fire and Rescue Service (FRS) roles, spanning from operational, control and Support staff. We are a volunteer-led organisation, with our operations managed by directors and supported by three paid employees.

WFS was founded with a mission in mind: to address the significant challenges faced by women firefighters. Fast forward to today, and we continue to champion the cause of gender equality within the FRS. While progress has been made over the years, there is still work to be done. In England, only 19.4% of the FRS workforce and a mere 9.3% of firefighters are women.

We seek to enable women in all FRS roles to reach their full potential. We aspire to be a recognised resource in every UK FRS, extending our support for gender equality to the international stage. We firmly believe in the power of role models and are committed to the motto, “If she can see it, she can be it.” Our work is crucial in helping improve recruitment, retention, and the progression of women within the FRS.

A highlight in the WFS calendar is the annual “The Women in Fire Service Awards.” Now in it’s fifth year, it recognises commitment and honours the hard work and valuable contributions of individuals and teams in the UK Fire and Rescue sector. The 2024 edition promises to be a celebration of outstanding achievements and contributions within the fire service community, marked by a renewed look and feel.

The 2023 awards had a record number of nominations, with nearly 70 pouring in from 31 organisations, businesses, and the public. The diversity and depth of the nominations showcased the nature of the fire service community and the impact of individuals committed to making a difference.

Among the worthy winners of the 2023 awards was Joolz Earley and Shreya Sayal, joint winners of the Young Person Role Model, now named Youth Inspiration. Joolz, aged 18 from East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service, embodies the spirit of community service as a Community Volunteer and Cadet Leader at Uckfield Fire Cadets. With aspirations to become a wholetime firefighter, Joolz’s journey is a testament to her commitment. Shreya Sayal from Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service, recognised for her “maturity and professionalism” as a young person challenging stereotypes of a firefighter.

Shreya’s leadership journey, from being a representative on DFRS Youth Council to becoming its first Chair, exemplifies her dedication to breaking barriers for girls from ethnic minority backgrounds.

The Bright Light Award winner was Daisy Byron from Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service. Daisy, a WFS Regional Rep since June 2022, actively supports and promotes WFS’s aims and values on a voluntary basis. From organising regional events to leading a hike to the summit of Snowdon in April 2023, Daisy’s contributions extend beyond her firefighting duties, fostering community networks and celebrating women in the fire and rescue service.

Deborah Davies, Group Commander from Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service, emerged as the distinguished winner of the ‘Dany Cotton Inspiring Leader Award.’ Joining the service in 2001, Deborah’s remarkable contributions have earned her national nominations and titles such as “one of a kind” and “a one-woman army.” As Chair of the Service’s women’s group, Deborah works tirelessly to improve opportunities for women, often going above and beyond her duties.

Ashley Tugby, Station Commander from Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service, was celebrated with the ‘Exceptional Allies Award.’ Described as “an outstanding ally for equality and inclusion,” Ashley’s tireless efforts since joining in 2001 have left an indelible mark. As an advocate for diverse causes, including LGBTIQA+, mental health, and neurodiversity, Ashley actively contributes to the WFS Facebook Community Group, promoting the values and behaviours of the modern fire service.

Arwen Bailey, an On-Call Firefighter at Skipton Fire Station, secured the ‘Firefighter Rising Star Award.’ Recognized for her deep community engagement and innovative initiatives, Arwen’s 6-week summer program for girls aged 13-15 demonstrated her commitment to building self-confidence and teamwork. As a volunteer Violence Against Women & Girls Ambassador for North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service and a single parent, Arwen’s story is one of resilience and impact.

While last year’s awards were truly incredible, we are eagerly anticipating this year’s nominations and the exceptional contributions that await recognition in the Women in Fire Service UK Awards.

Building on the success of the previous years, WFS introduces four new award categories for the 2024 edition, broadening the scope of recognition:

  • Outstanding Team Award: Celebrating exceptional collaboration, unity, and excellence within a team in the fire service.
  • Fundraising Heroes Award: Honouring individuals or groups demonstrating exceptional dedication in raising funds for a charity.
  • Digital Trailblazer Award: Recognising individuals in the fire service who leverage social media to inspire, educate, and positively influence people about fire service careers.
  • Advocate of Excellence Award: Celebrating a Local or Regional Representative instrumental in advancing WFS’s mission and contributing to the development of a more progressive Fire and Rescue Service for women.

Nominations for these prestigious awards are now open until 1st March 2024. The WFS website provides detailed information on award categories, eligibility requirements and how to make a nomination. This is an invitation for the fire service community to actively participate in recognising and celebrating excellence.

WFS is actively seeking sponsors for these inspiring awards. Organisations and businesses are invited to join hands with WFS in championing equality and empowering women in the Fire and Rescue Service. By becoming an award sponsor, organisations can align themselves with a cause that is breaking boundaries, making a lasting impact on the fire service community.

The Women in the Fire Service UK Awards 2024 promise to be a celebration of diversity, empowerment, and the unwavering spirit of those making a difference in the Fire and Rescue Service. The stories of Joolz, Shreya, Daisy, Deborah, Ashley, and Arwen represent resilience, leadership and commitment within the fire service community. As WFS expands with new award categories, there are now more opportunities to recognise the unsung heroes actively shaping the future of the Fire and Rescue Service.

To make a nomination visit www.wfs.org.uk/awards

For information on how to support WFS by becoming a corporate or individual member visit https://wfs.org.uk/membership/