Northern Ireland Fore and Rescue Service celebrated International Women’s Day by paying tribute to a real trailblazer – Ballyclare woman Heather Smart - the first female Firefighter in Northern Ireland.
It was a momentous week as Heather marked her retirement from NIFRS after 27 years’ service.
Heather said: “When I joined what was the Northern Ireland Fire Brigade in 1991, I was looking for
a job that would challenge me, one that promised to be different every day and which required a degree of physical activity.
“Growing up, my parents never set any limits on what I or my two sisters could do, but I do think that they were a little surprised by my choice of career. On the day of my passing out parade they were happy and proud of me and if they had any misgivings about the risks involved in being a Firefighter, they never imposed those on me.”
Heather added: “As the first female Firefighter there were challenges to overcome. The physical aspect of the job wasn’t an issue but there was a different culture in those days.
“Some people were more accepting, than others of a female Firefighter. It’s a very different situation today as we now have 64 female Firefighters.
“I would like to say a special thank you to Arthur Plumpton who was my first Station Officer. He was scrupulously fair and treated me no different to my male colleagues which was exactly what I wanted. He was very accepting of having a woman in the Watch and I could not have had a better start to my career.
“The Fire and Rescue Service has been a big part of my life. The friendships and the camaraderie from colleagues is second to none. I would definitely recommend the job of a Firefighter.
“To Red Watch, Knock - thanks to you all!”