A HACKETSTOWN woman has made history by becoming the county’s first-ever female firefighter.
Geraldine Strahan has now successful completed six weeks of firefighting skills courses, weekly drills and operational incidents to become Carlow County Council’s first-ever female firefighter.
The fire service was always part of Geraldine’s life growing up within the tight-knit community of Hacketstown. Her father, uncle and neighbours were part of the local community brigade. It was a case of third time lucky for Geraldine, as she had attended for interview previously, only to be marginally pipped each time until late last year, when she received a call from Carlow County Council and knew it was her time to commit to the life as a firefighter.
With the national average of only 2.5% of the country’s firefighters being female, the addition of Geraldine to the Hacketstown brigade brings the gender balance within the county to one female for every 45 males, which equates to 2.2%, indicative of the national average.
When asked about the gender balance and her feelings about working in such a male-dominated environment, Geraldine said that the first six months have been “very positive and she’s felt equal at all times”.
“I’ve certainly not been differentiated by fellow students, instructors or the local brigade. We are all a team working together towards a common goal and so long as we all pull together, should it matter whether you are a man or a woman?” asked Geraldine.
“I particularly enjoyed the three-week firefighting skills course, found the two-week breathing apparatus course challenging but very rewarding and the one-week compartment firefighting skills course excellent,” she said.
So how have the eight firefighters in Hacketstown taken to the first lady joining their brigade? “They have been very supportive, accommodating and helpful,” said Geraldine.
In fact, the whole community is delighted to see her finally fulfil her long-term ambition to become a firefighter.
“Don’t forget, it can be intimidating for lads as well to have a woman come into their environment for the first time, so change and acceptance is required on both sides for it to work,” she said. “I feel a great sense of pride being a part of the fire service; I’m very proud to call myself a firefighter and basically all I want is to work hard and strive to be the best version of myself,” said Geraldine.
“If you want something badly enough, never give up and Hacketstown Fire Brigade has a great crew that I have been welcomed into; they’re like a family and I’m happy to be part of it. I look forward to my career in the fire service and hopefully progress further in the future,” she said.
Speaking to The Nationalist, acting chief fire officer Alan O’Neill added: “We are very proud of Geraldine and all that she has achieved to date. In my time with the fire service, I have known Geraldine to be very close to succeeding on a number of occasions, so we were delighted to be in a position to offer the opportunity to join last year.
“She performed to a very high standard on all the courses she attended and achieved very good results. With the national average of female firefighters and officers at such a low number, we were delighted to see that Geraldine has proven anything can be achieved with hard work, perseverance and the right attitude,” said Alan.
“She is a great ambassador for firefighter recruitment as a whole and her story should be an inspiration for more females to consider a career within the fire service,” he concluded.