Women in the Fire Service


In early June over 150 eager delegates gathered at the 15th National Training and Development weekend with Women in the Fire Service UK (WFS) at the Fire Service College. The weekend officially began after dinner with a warm welcome by Dany Cotton, Chair of WFS as she presented the Annual WFS Awards. This was followed by an inspirational and amusing speech from keynote speaker, Claire Harvey, Paralympic GB sitting volleyball team captain. Claire spoke of the challenges she has faced and conquered after her life changing accident in 2008.

The workshops

Excellent facilities were provided at the Fire Service College where delegates participated in a wide range of outdoor workshops including: Multi incident scenario on the fire ground, Be a firefighter, Drive a fire appliance.

The indoor classroom sessions included: Workplace stress, Introduction to coaching, Assertiveness, Emotional Intelligence and Self-Awareness, Incident command and road safety experience.

Chair of WFS, Dany Cotton, said: “It’s been an amazing weekend, despite the rainy start. Upon arrival everyone took part in the outdoor ice breaker challenge in the pouring rain, which created a great amount of team building straight away. The teams set off as total strangers but ended up coming back soaking wet and laughing.

“This year we’ve had a really wide choice of fantastic workshops from the ever popular ‘Be a firefighter for a day’ to the Incident Command training. I’ve heard nothing but praise for the class room workshops. The emotional intelligence class in particular has received great feedback. Everyone really opened up and shared, so they got a lot out of the experience.

“There are many benefits from coming here for the weekend from networking, bonding and building new relationships. This results in a renewed confidence and fresh outlook that everyone takes back to all their Fire Services throughout the UK.

“It also gives everyone the opportunity to recharge their batteries, especially if they have been feeling tired at work and life has been feeling a bit the same. They come along here and meet a different group of people in a relaxed environment, where they learn from others as well as sharing their own experiences.”

Donna Nelmes, Schools and Colleges Education Lead from DSFRS said: “This is the first WFS weekend I’ve been to and I attended three of the classroom sessions. The emotional intelligence and coaching workshops really made me look at how I respond as a Crew Manager to others. For instance if someone comes in angry or upset, I realise how I react and listen to them can affect the best possible outcome for how the issue can best be resolved. By being aware of my emotional reaction I can improve the situation.”

Donna also took part in the IC workshop, with training technology identical to DSFRS. The session took place in a 3D environment, using the latest projected interactive simulation software with goggles to create a 360 degree training experience.

Donna continued: “The workshop was fantastic, involving a mix of people with all sorts of experiences, and a variety of working roles, non-operational as well as operational. With each scenario we were able to discuss all the possible outcomes. For me hearing everyone’s different perspectives as they discussed what they would do and how they would react to the same incident was really interesting.

“In our working life females firefighters are still a minority group, and may not feel confident to put their hand up. Being in workshops with females being the majority created a safe space to be able to speak out.

“I’ve been a firefighter for 14 years now and this is the first WFS I’ve been to, I would certainly recommend the weekend to others – operational and non-operational. The whole weekend provides an encouraging environment and builds supportive relationships that continue on after we return.”

Sunday morning started with AGM followed by the final workshops, feedback session and farewell until 2016.

The objectives of WFS are:

  • to make the FRS a place where men and women can work, and compete, together professionally and harmoniously.
  • to provide a comprehensive support network for members
  • to encourage the recruitment, retention, development and progression of women within the fire and rescue service
  • to provide training and development opportunities specifically targeting women in the FRS
  • to challenge FRSs on behalf of members
  • to advise FRS/DCLG with the aim of creating positive change

About WFS

The WFS is a voluntary, not for profit organisation, established in 1993 and encouraging and supporting an environment where women and men can work and compete together professionally and harmoniously in the Fire Service.


“Sunday afternoon and it is with a heavy heart that I check out of my room and say goodbye to new friends and colleagues from fire and rescue services from around the UK. New friends and colleagues that have and will form the basis of a fantastic network of support, guidance and general friendship within the Fire Service throughout my career and possibly beyond; friends that I have laughed with, friends that I have shared knowledge and experiences with and friends that have made the Annual Women in the Fire Service Development Weekend an event not to be missed.”

Every year this inspiring event, run by Women in the Fire Service (WFS), brings together delegates from across the fire service community. But it’s not limited to women; anyone can attend and take advantage of the development opportunities available over the three day conference style event, yes, there has even been reports of men attending this weekend experience!

From having a go at being a firefighter, understanding fire investigation or simply learning how to get the most out of your working life through neuro linguistic programming (NLP), the weekend has a wide range of workshops for operational and support delegates to book in advance.

But the development weekend is often just the beginning of the story. Many people are unaware of the benefits of being part of an organisation that can really support you, in whatever role you undertake within the fire service. WFS can be simply explained as a contact system, introduced to provide support for individuals who may feel isolated or be experiencing difficulties. By the simple use of communications, WFS aims to support women throughout the country.


Formally known as Networking Women in the Fire Service, the organisation with members from across all roles within the FRS community. It’s run by elected committee members who direct the business of the organisation.

An incredible network of regional members, taking part in general get together, organised development opportunities and regular meetings, helps to fulfil the objectives of WFS and most importantly, helps support its members. You can find out more about activities in your region by visiting the website www.nwfs.net The following testimonials show why this network really matters:

“I have a new found respect for my operational colleagues and a better understanding of the demands of their role following a chance to wear BA thanks to the WFS development weekend.” Derbyshire member

“I had been working at a junior level and suffering from a lack of confidence. Friends I met through WFS have encouraged me and helped me believe in myself. I now have a new job and really feel a valued member of the team. I can see a career path opening up for me. The power of a support network is unbelievable.”Anonymous

So what’s stopping you finding out more, or joining up today? Individual membership costs £10 per year.

If you want to know more about WFS, you can visit www.nwfs.net contact your local representative (detail on the website) or simply jump straight in and sign up for the next WFS event taking place.

Fire and Rescue Services can also support the aims and objectives of WFS by becoming Corporate Affiliate Members, please contact khsmith@tiscali.co.uk for more information.