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Pudsey: Fire service’s oldest female fighter hangs up her helmet

The oldest female fighter in West Yorkshire is hanging up her helmet at Stanningley Fire Station and turning off the blue lights for the last time as she looks forward to retirement.

Christina Nugent, 55, started working with West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service (WYFRS) when she was 41-years-old.

The mum-of-two from Pudsey has been based at Stanningley Fire Station and says she would encourage other women to just “go for it” if they are thinking about becoming a firefighter.

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Her commitment to helping women into the service is paying off – just this month seven female trainee firefighters joined the service. “It’s wonderful to see more women joining the service – I tell anyone who’s thinking of becoming a firefighter to just go for it,” she said.

“Everyone, no matter what your gender, needs to have the dedication to maintain the fitness levels required for the job and to work effectively as a team. I’ve worked with some fantastic people – everybody is an individual and we respect each other for that.”

Before becoming a firefighter, Christina was a fitness advisor at Leeds City Council for 17 years. She has also won the Indoor Rowing World Championships three times.

“I wish I’d joined WYFRS earlier as it has been a fantastic job,” she said. “It was almost 15 years ago when I first thought about becoming a firefighter. I didn’t know anything about the technical side of the job but I had a look at the attributes needed and thought – I could do that.”

Christina said people often don’t realise the range of work carried out by the fire service. “It’s not just fires that we attend it’s also crashes, water rescues and various emergencies,” she added.

“We also do a lot of work in communities to prevent fires from happening in the first place and it may be that you come face-to-face with some very vulnerable people during our home checks.

“You need to have the gift of listening and also be non-judgemental but then you also need be good at solving problems in order to help people and to make them safer. You also need to be flexible in your job. One day you could be fighting a fire and the next day you could be doing a school talk.”

Christina will be enjoying her retirement by focusing on her hobbies – running, rowing, cooking and socialising – but first she is planning on travelling the world, starting in Thailand in January. She has been a menopause champion within the service, supporting other women at this phase in their lives.

“When I was 51 I was retested on my fitness to ensure I could still make the grade – and I passed so that proves to women you can still do it in your 50s,” she said.

“Age shouldn’t be a barrier to becoming a firefighter – especially if you are a woman, so long as you have the fitness and the right mindset you can achieve anything you want.”

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