Service’s most senior female firefighter calls for more women to join up

The highest-ranking female firefighter in West Yorkshire is encouraging more women to join the service, with her call to action coming on International Women’s Day.

Laura B

Over a fourteen-year career, Laura Boocock, 39, has progressed through the ranks to the position of Calderdale District Commander, which means she currently holds the highest rank ever as a female firefighter at West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service (WYFRS).

Despite women being more than half the population, only eight out of 100 firefighters nationally are women, with similar statistics within WYFRS. Using International Women’s Day today (Wed) as a platform, Laura is urging women to come forward and help close that gap.

She said: “International Women’s Day is about celebrating women’s achievements around the world but is also a prime opportunity to bring the challenges that women face to the forefront of the conversation and look at how to close the employment gap in fire services.”

According to the most recent Home Office figures, as of 31 March 2021, only 7.5 percent of firefighters across the UK were women. Although this has increased from seven percent in 2020 and five percent in 2015, it shows there is still a disparity within the workforce.

“My advice to women thinking about starting in this industry is to just do it,” added Laura, who holds a degree in Environmental Science awarded jointly from Lancaster and Colorado universities. “It’s a tough but ultimately rewarding gig. Being a firefighter in West Yorkshire is a career, not a job, and one which anyone can achieve with a bit of grit and determination.

“It’s so important to have a balanced workforce and it’s something I hope to see increase in the span of my career. When working on the ground and out in the communities, it’s essential that we have balanced crews, as a service should be representative of the community it protects.”

In 2009, after a four-year career working as an environmental project manager for a local firm Laura decided she wanted to instead follow in her father Paul Boocock’s footsteps and become a firefighter. Starting as a trainee in Huddersfield, Laura worked in multiple stations both as an operational and non-operational member of staff, gaining experience in firefighting operations, national resilience and out on the ground in the West Yorkshire community. Her father retired in 2009 after reaching watch manager working in fire safety at Calderdale, just as she began her firefighting career.

After excelling in Huddersfield, she was promoted to crew commander and worked at Cleckheaton and Ossett stations respectively, then went on to become a watch manager in Stanningley. A stint working in human resources and training while stationed at headquarters at Birkenshaw was next, before becoming group manager as part of the national resilience assurance team. This experience put her in good

stead for her current position as district commander in Calderdale. Living in Elland makes this role even more special to her, given it’s her home patch.

“I have been lucky to move stations, experience non-operational as well as operational roles across the service and undertake a secondment on my journey to where I am today,” said Laura, adding her most rewarding role has been being part of the recruitment and training teams, turning members of the public into competent firefighters: “I'm very lucky to have had some great support and guidance from both men and women which has helped to shape me and my career, so it’s great to be able to do the same for others now coming up the ranks.”

Reflecting on how far she’s come, she said: “The weirdest thing to get used to, was the first time someone called me ma’am. I turned around to check who they were talking to, as I was so sure it couldn’t have been me!”

Laura’s appointment as Calderdale District Commander came in 2021, following a comprehensive assessment process and interview panel. She is WYFRS most senior female firefighter to date.

For more information about joining the fire service and to register your interest in becoming a firefighter, visit WYFRS’s dedicated firefighter recruitment site here: