FIRE AID member, Women in the Fire Service host female firefighters from Lebanon.

Thu 11, Jul, 2019

FIRE AID member, Women in the Fire Service UK (WFS) were delighted to be able to host a number of international delegates at their recent annual National Training & Development Event. Amongst them were Rose and Sabine from the Bekka Valley, Lebanon.

This opportunity was the result of representatives from Women in the Fire Service visiting Lebanon earlier in the year. The purpose of this trip was to further develop and evaluate a gender based programme of Community Safety in conjunction with Save the Children and number of other non-governmental organisations that had been developed with Operation Florian, brought together under the umbrella of FIRE AID.

The trip, funded by the Worshipful Company of Firefighters, not only enabled Alli Stone of Hampshire Fire and Rescue service to train overseas but also provided the opportunity for Rose and Sabine to join WFS 19th National Training & Development Event.

Rose and Sabine are volunteer firefighters for the Bekka Valley, Lebanon, as firefighters they can work anywhere in this region. In an interview the women told us about their role in Lebanon and what they thought of the weekend.

Tell me about the role in Lebanon?

In Lebanon, there are not many women volunteer firefighters, we only know of one other in our region and we think there is approximately 10 in the country. In our role we are not able to undertake the physical aspects of firefighting we have seen and have had the opportunity to try this weekend. This is because women do not go to fires, this is not a firefighting job considered for women, we do however, go to safety events and road traffic accidents.

How long have you volunteered?

Rose has volunteered since 2014, Sabine since 2011 and although we have been doing the job a while, we are not allowed to go to many things – we are looking to change this.

Is there criteria to be a volunteer in Lebanon?

No, but you have on the job training and gain real experience. There are very few paid firefighting jobs in Lebanon.

What have you learnt this weekend?

A lot, it is really good to understand how a fire develops and get physically involved. This is really new for us and something that we would like to do back in Lebanon.

Do you think you can use these skills in Lebanon?

Yes we hope that we can, fortunately we have good family connections in the fire service in Lebanon (Sabine’s Father and Brother) and they are supporting us to do more. They see the value in women having these skills, so we are hopeful for change.

Do you think the training offered this weekend would benefit other firefighters in Lebanon?

For sure, the training this weekend has been really good and the men would benefit too, but this weekend is particularly good for women, there are just not many women in Lebanon so coming here this weekend its really special.

Do you think you can encourage other women to be firefighters in Lebanon?

Yes it’s something we are really keen to support.

Do you think you could start a women in the Fire Service in Lebanon?

Yes but we do not know who the other women around the country.

Could you change this?

Yes but not all women want to be social, but we could change this, we could start by connecting. That might be possible.

Thinking of the future, do you think that one day you could be the director general?

No not really, because they are a man.

Having seen that our Commissioner for London is a woman, has this inspired you?

Yes it has, things are different in Lebanon now, but this weekend has shown us there is opportunity to attend fires and maybe, someday anything/who knows what might be possible.

What has been the highlight of the weekend for you?

The Urban Search and Rescue training was awesome and there is a need for this in Lebanon, we want to share the learning we have had here with our colleagues.

Reflecting on this experience is there anything we can do better?

Not really this weekend has been perfect for us – I hope I can come back

We are delighted to be able to faciliate and encourage shared projects which develop working relationships between FIRE AID members. We look forward to following this project in the future! Congratulations to all involved, Nikki Thurston, Jenny Hill, Steve Jordan, Julie King and many others.