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Ashbourne's first female firefighter celebrates a year of service

By Ashbourne News Telegraph  |  Posted: July 10, 2014

Ashbourne's first female firefighter celebrates a year of service

Becky Slater

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JOINING the fire service and following in her father’s footsteps had always been Becky Slater’s ambition in life – but she had no idea she would also be claiming the title of Ashbourne’s first female firefighter.

Carolyn Bointon met with her to find out more.

With three young children and a part-time job looking after horses, you have to wonder how Becky manages to fit it all in and still offer 84 hours on-call a week to Ashbourne’s fire service as a retained firefighter.

The 31-year-old joined Derbyshire Fire and Rescue in June 2013, after being inspired by her dad, John Waldron, who served at Glossop for more than 25 years.

She said: “My mum, Tina, also worked in the service control room, in Mickleover, so I was influenced by them both as I grew up.”

It took more than six months from applying for the job in September 2012 until Becky started training, but she says that even then she had a lot of support and help from the crew in Ashbourne.

Becky, of Mayfield Avenue, Mayfield, said: “I used to come down and join in the Tuesday night drill training, and that helped me when I started my real training because I knew what was expected from me.”

Once her application was approved Becky spent the first 15 weeks completing her job-related task training. Her father was awarded the Silver Axe for best recruit when he joined the service, and when Becky passed out after completing the JRTs he handed the axe down to her. She said: “It was an incredibly emotional moment and I felt very proud, not only of myself, but also of everything he achieved in his career too.”

Becky recently completed her first year with the service, and faces another 12 months training to become a fully qualified firefighter. She said: “It’s been a fantastic introduction and I have learnt so much – from taking roofs of crashed cars, using the breathing apparatus through to handling the ladders and hoses.”

She said her first job was particularly memorable: “I got the call at ten minutes past midnight on June 30. – I remember it well because it was my husband’s birthday. It came through as a car crash, with a casualty in the middle of the road. My heart was pounding as I tried to remember all the drills and what I had to do – and then the officer in charge warned us all that it was another crew member who was the injured person.

‘‘Thankfully he was OK and went on to make a full recovery, but it’s definitely a call I will never forget.’’

Becky would eventually like to specialise in animal rescue and become a full-time firefighter. She said: “As the children get older then I would like to devote more time to my career and look at getting more involved in things like animal rescue, and maybe even water rescue too.”

She has been involved in several jobs involving livestock, the most memorable, she said, was one with a pregnant cow. She said: “We had three trucks in the end, ours, Matlock and Kingsway.The cow had gone down to the river to give birth, for some reason they tend to do that even though they can’t swim.

“This one had fallen down the slope into a stagnant stream, it was really smelly and muddy and we needed a tractor in the end to haul her out.”

Station commander Paul Holmes said: “Being the first female firefighter to join Ashbourne, Becky has proved to be very keen in learning the job and she has fitted into the team very well. She shows great enthusiasm for any task she is set.’’

“However, we did think we may see a few homemade cakes turning up on station, alas, not to be, she’s probably thinking of our physiques, not wanting to spoil them.”

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