VIDEO: Inspirational Sheffield female firefighters share their stories for International Women's Day

If ever there were two inspirational Sheffield women to banish stereotypes on International Women's Day, Nicola Hobbs and Claire Duke are perhaps the perfect examples.

Thursday, 8th March 2018, 9:23 am
Updated Thursday, 8th March 2018, 9:30 am
Station manager Claire Duke.

Nicola combines her work as a full-time firefighter with her duties as a goalkeeper for women's football team the London Bees.

And Claire proudly became South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service's first female firefighter in 1992 and said she was still enjoying the role 26 years on.

Station manager Claire Duke.

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The duo both said they were still met with some stereotypical views when attending jobs but added that those opinions were 'changing' and encouraged other women considering a career in the fire service to 'go for it'.

Nicola, 30, of Frecheville, who works in community safety, said: "It's changing massively but there's always going to be those little comments. One thing that gets said a lot, especially in the media is 'firemen', which I don't think they mean to cause offence but we have to challenge it.

"When I go to jobs people think I am the secretary or some sort of backroom staff rather than front line, especially when I am doing my community safety work. People don't realise that I fight fires and have been on the front line."

Originally from Portsmouth, Nicola joined the fire service 10 years ago and has worked as a firefighter in Rotherham, Edlington, Tankersley and Birley.

A Sheffield Star cutting from 1992 when Claire Duke became the first female firefighter in South Yorkshire.

She said the appointment of Alex Johnson as SYFR's new assistant chief fire officer in December had acted as an 'inspiration' to all women in the service.

"I love what I do and now we have Alex in the organisation, we have a fresh pair of eyes and it just gives a bit of inspiration to know that the Assistant Chief officer is woman," she said.

"Anything is possible now that women are coming through the ranks and it makes it much easier for women to come through.

"It's a great career. There's a lot of work involved but there is a shift system in place and for single mums the service will try to support you as much as possible.

Nicola Hobbs.

"To anyone thinking of giving it a go I would just say if you are having doubts just go for it - follow your dreams, follow your goals.

Nicola is also a goalkeeper for the Bees in the semi-professional Women's Super League 2 and regularly makes the four-hour commute to Barnet for training and games.

"My brother Jack plays for Nottingham Forest I have always been brought up around football. I started at Norwich City Academy and then went on to play for Doncaster Belles for seven years," she said.

Claire, meanwhile, said she was met with some strange looks both within the fire service when she first joined 26 years ago.

Nicola Hobbs in action for her former team Doncaster Belles in 2015. Picture: Malcolm Billingham.

She said: "I suppose I would by lying if I was to say that there wasn't that little bit of a tag when I first joined. After the first couple of days on the training course, when you realise you are all in the same boat, I didn't feel under any pressure at all.

"But it was the strangest thing in the world when I went on the station because all the men who work there were used to women - they all had wives, sisters, mothers - but it was like I was an alien. They just weren't used to women on the watch."

But Claire, 50, of Kimberworth, Rotherham, said views had changed significantly as the number of female firefighters had grown.

"There are so many more women in the job now - it's the norm now to see women on the watch so there's not the same thoughts anymore," she said.

"In terms of members of the public, you get your positive and your negative responses. There are some that believe that women shouldn't do the job and that's to do with this perception of strength.

"It's started to trickle feed through where the public are getting to women attending incidents a lot more."

Station manager Claire Duke.

Speaking about whether she would recommend a career in the fire service, Claire, who is station manager at Rivelin Fire Station, added: "I love my job and I always have done and I think that's because there's such a variety of roles you can get into."

A Sheffield Star cutting from 1992 when Claire Duke became the first female firefighter in South Yorkshire.
Nicola Hobbs.
Nicola Hobbs in action for her former team Doncaster Belles in 2015. Picture: Malcolm Billingham.