• Cley Windmill

    Cley Windmill

  • Sheringham Mural

    Sheringham Mural

  • Holt High Street

    Holt High Street

  • Seals At Blakeney Point

    Seals At Blakeney Point

  • North Norfolk Railway

    North Norfolk Railway

  • Morston

    Morston

  • Stody Gardens

    Stody Gardens

  • Wells Next The Sea

    Wells Next The Sea

  • Sheringham

    Sheringham

  • Wolterton Hall Woods

    Wolterton Hall Woods

  • Cromer Pier

    Cromer Pier

  • Holkham

    Holkham

  • Sheringham Coast

    Sheringham Coast

  • Stopping For  Coffee In Fakenham

    Stopping For Coffee In Fakenham

  • Holt

    Holt

  • Coastal Path

    Coastal Path

  • Morston

    Morston

Trailblazer - Memoirs of the first female firefighter in England

Josephine Reynolds

Jo’s talk began at the very beginning with her early life and how Jo came to be in Norfolk from living in West Wales following her parents’ divorce and how her early work experiences led to the decision to apply to become the first full time female firefighter.  Jo described how the strenuous selection process included hanging from the top of a ladder to check for fear of heights and crawling through obstacles in an unlit room to test for claustrophobia. 

Aged 17, Jo was recruited into the Norfolk Fire Service to begin her training in 1982 in a “blaze” of publicity, leading some of her male colleagues to believe it was a publicity stunt.  With determination not to be the weakest link, she joined the 15 months training programme with its extensive range of training exercises and intensive fitness regime aimed at preparing them for all kinds of emergencies and on completion she was posted to Thetford, where her work involved fighting forest fires, dealing with road accidents and chemical spillage incidents and the occasional rescuing of a cat in a tree.  She also learned to drive the fire engine. Because she was slim and with a boyish haircut, wearing the “unisex” firefighter’s uniform and helmet often led to people thanking “that nice young man” for her help. 

Jo’s firefighting career led to her meeting the man in her life who persuaded her to get married and go travelling in South America where, among many other varied experiences they became part of a high-altitude drug trial in Peru.  She returned to a variety of jobs in the UK when the marriage ended but decided to go travelling again in 2006 to Koh Samui, Thailand where here work included helping to start a Women’s Business Network and becoming a presenter on live TV and becoming a writer and humanitarian journalist in Cambodia!

Asked if the fire service has more women in the service today, Jo confirmed it is still 95% male which makes her story all the more remarkable.  She is certainly someone who enjoys a challenge and continues to live life to the full.  On her return home she was encouraged to write a book – so she did, “Fire Woman – an Extraordinary Story of Britain’s First Female Firefighter” which was available on sale at the meeting, and I am sure it will be a fascinating read.

Peggy Williams