This week’s Wonderful Welsh Woman is fire fighter Beci Newton. Beci is one of just 35 female firefighters at South Wales Fire and Rescue Service. We hope that Beci’s story can help to inspire the next generation of young women to break down the stereotype and consider firefighting as a career. Beci believes that the only barrier between women and a career in the fire service is perception, she wishes that more women believed in themselves enough at least to give it a try.
If you’re interested in a career with South Wales Fire Service, click HERE.
Tell us about your job, what does it entail day to day?
My role as a crew manager changes constantly to fit the demands of station life. We have the daily routines, testing and cleaning schedule but outside of that it changes day to day. That’s the beauty of the role. We fit smoke alarms and carry out home fire safety checks for the most vulnerable people in our society, we visit schools and youth organisations to deliver fire and road safety information, we tour local businesses and high profile buildings to ensure we have all the relevant information should we attend an incident there.
We have a number of training demands, practical and theoretical to ensure we are ready for any eventuality. My watch in Cardiff Central need to be trained in firefighting, RTC extrication, swift water rescue, the use of the Ariel Ladder Platform and more.
We fit all this work in around our calls. We attend thousands of calls a year and there is a vast number of scenarios we may have to face.
What do you enjoy most about your work? What gets you out of bed in the morning?
I love going to work to be with my crew, they are some of my best friends and I am proud to serve our community alongside them.
What has your career progression looked like? Where did you start?
I first became involved in the South Wales Fire and Rescue Service at 14 as a Young Firefighter (now known as Fire Cadets). I loved every aspect of the job from the start and I applied for a fulltime job at 16 after going through a tough recruitment process – I was extremely lucky to get my dream job at just 18 years old.
I started my career at Cardiff Central Fire Station, moving to Aberbargoed when my children were small. I became inspired here to go for a rank, I studied hard and passed my tech paper first time. I took a temporary Crew Manager role at Tonypandy Fire Station before securing a permanent CM Job back at Cardiff Central.
I have recently completed a temporary promotion to Watch Manager working with Fire Cadets in the Community Safety Department at Fire Service Headquarters.
I really enjoyed the amazing opportunity, but the call of the station bells dropping was too much and I am looking forward to getting back onto the big red trucks.
What first inspired you to work in this field?
I first insisted I wanted to be “Firefighter Penny Morris” age 2 and that passion never went away. With the exception of “Blue Peter Presenter” I have never wanted another job.
I grew up watching FF Sharron Mock at Caerphilly fire station doing the job for real and I knew I wanted to follow her into it.
What has been your greatest achievement in your work to date?
There really are too many to choose from. I am so lucky in my job where I take on many roles. I have driven a fire engine across Europe to donate to Serbian firefighters who desperately needed them. I have seen young people overcome adversity to achieve amazing things through fire cadets. I’ve held the hands of the grieving through their hardest moments. I’ve made friends for life.
What would you like to achieve in your work before you retire?
I don’t have a particular rank that I’d like to achieve; what I hope to leave is a legacy of making the lives of others better, making our communities safer and happier places to live and visit, and making my crew’s work-days safe and positive.
Who were your role models when you were starting out in your career?
There are a number of people in the fire and rescue service who I take lessons from. They are from all ranks and walks of life.
Were there any women that inspired you as a girl or young woman?
The most influential women in my life were my mother and grandmothers. They have all faced difficult times in their lives but always come out stronger, their determination and resilience were infectious. They didn’t just tell me I could achieve, they showed me.
Which female role models inspire you today?
Malala Yousafzai. She is dignified and strong in the face of all life has thrown at her. Her desire to learn and her commitment to her cause is awe inspiring. I’m excited to see what change she will bring to this world.
Do you think that women role models are visible enough, do you think that more should be done to promote the achievements of women?
It’s getting better. Slowly the world is giving our children the female role models they deserve, though not always in the mainstream. My children adore “goodnight stories for rebel girls”, but they’re all stories from the past, where are these women right now? It’s getting there…I just wish we could speed it up.
What do you think are the barriers facing women?
The same old prejudices that we’ve faced for millennia are still all too prominent. And can we PLEASE sort out maternity/paternity provision and real childcare choice for working families? I see far too many people held back by lack of choice when it comes to work/life balance.
Are there any barriers specific to your field of work facing women?
I think the only barrier is people’s perception of the Fire and Rescue service, people write themselves off before looking at the role and the requirements. I wish more women believed in themselves enough to at least give it a try.
What advice would you give your ten year old self?
Keep smiling kid and keep being you, you don’t fit in right now but you’ll find your place in this world. Try to talk less and listen more (oh hahahaha, as if!). Enjoy it – it will fly past in a second. Take photos.
What advice would you give to young women today?
No really, you can.
Believe in yourself. Work hard for what you want. Smile, it confuses people.