Just 6% of firefighters in Northern Ireland female as bid to recruit more begins

Just 99 of Northern Ireland's full-time and on-call firefighters are female, accounting for only 6% of the total number.

It has led Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service to launch a recruitment campaign, with a particular focus on making the job appeal to women.

A series of open day events are taking place before the roles open to the general public, including men.

"I think the numbers are low historically," said District Commander of Eastern Area Command, Mark Cushanan.

"The fire service has been seen as a job only for men and want to dispel them [sic] rumours," he added.

The open days will take place in Belfast, Omagh, Armagh and Ballymena and will aim to give women a chance to ask questions to current firefighters and find out more about the career.

Northern Ireland has one of the lowest percentages of female firefighters in the UK. The number has risen by 3% since 2017.

In Great Britain, the figure sits at 7%.

Laura Mullan has been a firefighter for 14 years. She wants to encourage others to apply.

She told UTV: "At the beginning there was [sic] less women in the fire service, now there's more women, so because there's more of us, we can talk to each other and talk to other males in the group about of our issues and concerns that we have. We do work together as a team, it's friends for life."

So why are women so under-represented? UTV was told a lack of awareness in what the job actually entails and the application process itself are factors.

Meanwhile earlier this year, an ITV News investigation uncovered cases of alleged misogyny and bullying in several fire services in England and Wales.

So does the service here think those allegations could stop women from applying locally?

"I hope that wouldn't be the case in NIFRS because of the steps that we have taken to try and dispel them," said Mark Cushanan.

With Northern Ireland's figure currently so low, there's clearly still a lot of work to be done.

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