Female officer plays key roles in Technical Fire Safety and Fire Investigation

Debs Davies

To mark International Women’s Day on 8 March, we’re profiling different female fire service staff throughout this week, all of whom play a vital role in Hereford & Worcester Fire and Rescue Service.

Today we meet Station Commander Debs Davies, one of the Service’s senior operational staff based in north Herefordshire, with an important specialist role in Technical Fire Safety and Fire Investigation.

Describing what she does, Debs says:

“As a Station Commander, I coordinate the work of five fire stations in North Herefordshire, with additional responsibilities in Technical Fire Safety and Fire Investigation.

“That means that as well as having 74 staff reporting to me, I become involved in investigating and determining the cause and origin of fires and improving fire safety, with the combined aim of keeping our communities safe from fire.

“I was On Call for 18 years as well as working as a Whole time Crew Commander and Watch Commander at Kidderminster Fire Station. In that time worked my way up the ranks to be a Station Commander, acquiring specialist qualifications as I advanced.

“I’ve always been keen to progress my own career – I’m about to start a NILO (National Inter-agency Liaison Officer) course – but I’m also passionate about supporting our On Call crews and helping make their lives easier in a rewarding but demanding progession.”

Before becoming a full time Crew Commander, Deb was a qualified Veterinary Nurse, lecturing in Veterinary Nursing and Small Animal Care at Hartpury College, as well as training as an Operating Department practitioner in Hereford and Selly Oak Hospitals.

She then joined HWFRS in a non-operational role, progressing from Education Assistant to Fire Setter Manager and then senior Community Safety Advisor, as well as continuing with her On Call operational roles at Peterchurch Fire Station.

Debs says: “I worked hard to gain the necessary skills to progress to a Whole time Crew Commander at Kidderminster, after being promoted through the ranks while still working on call at Peterchurch station.

Debs, who has a grown up daughter, joined the service 20 years ago and it has been a family career, with her husband, who is a farmer, having also served 18 years as an On Call Fire Fighter at Peterchurch.

But she admits it hasn’t always been easy to get the work-life balance right:

“It can be a challenge whatever career you’re in. People are constantly surprised when they hear what I do, but for anyone wondering if it’s for them, come and talk to us and we can explain how it works.

“There are different contracted bands within the On Call role which can allow some flexibility with your primary role and work patterns – my husband and I both joined as On Call Fire Fighters when our daughter was 3.

“It was challenging to juggle our family and work commitments, but we kept going as we were passionate about serving our local communities when they’re most at need.

“We’re always trying to encourage more women to take up the career, which offers so many opportunities and specialisms – available to women just as much as to men.

The Service is determined to support women in its ranks, as Debs explains:

“I’m Chair of Women@hwfire, which was launched in 2019 to support our female firefighters and champion the Service’s ambition for equality and inclusion in the workplace and wider community.

“We encourage a level playing field and a fully diverse approach to selecting and training our female staff, for example giving them all possible support on the fitness side before they apply.

“For anyone considering the fire service, I’d say work hard, believe in yourself, never be afraid to try, you can do it.”

If you’d like to know how to join the Fire Service and make a difference in a wide variety of roles, you can find out more at Join us | Hereford & Worcester Fire and Rescue Service (hwfire.org.uk) .