We’re supporting International Women’s Day by sharing the stories of females in the fire Service who embody this year’s theme of Choose To Challenge. Here is Kate Niciecki’s story.
Kate Niciecki challenges the norm every single day. On top of being a full-time mum and carer, she is also an On-Call Firefighter, risking her life to protect the people in her community.
12 months ago, Kate was a stay at home mum looking after her nine-year old daughter Lainey and 17-year old son Morgan. On top of the usual maternal duties, Kate’s role as a mother was even more challenging as Morgan had been diagnosed with autism and required extensive care and support.
But this didn’t stop Kate from taking on one of the biggest challenges of her life: becoming an On-Call Firefighter.
It was in January 2020 when Kate was looking for a way to keep fit that she stumbled upon a programme called Train2Save run by Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service. The programme was fitness based and gave attendees an opportunity to learn about the physical skills needed to become a firefighter.
Kate said: “I signed up to the programme as a way of keeping fit, at the time I had no intentions of joining the fire service. But I got speaking to the firefighters about their work and I figured with my spare time in the day, it could be something worthwhile for me to do.”
Kate went on to attend a handful of the Service’s Have A Go Days before submitting her application to become an On-Call Firefighter and subsequently joining the crew at Market Bosworth station.
“My time as an On-Call Firefighter so far has been absolutely fantastic,” Kate recalled. “It’s been a journey for sure, and at times it’s been physically and mentally hard. But one thing I’ve learnt about the fire service is that nothing is impossible – with the right support and determination, you can achieve anything!
“I’ve really enjoyed the training and meeting new people. It feels great knowing that the work I’m doing is helping people in my community.”
At times however, Kate has admitted that being both a mum and a firefighter can have its challenges.
“My main struggle is trying to manage my time,” she said. “I have to be very well organised to make sure I can do the best job as both a mum and as a firefighter. Thankfully working On-Call means that I can be flexible and work around my family’s needs.
“Lainey’s primary school have been really supportive and if I’m ever not back from a call or training they make sure she’s looked after. Morgan attended a specialist school up until he was 16, so going from having their support to having nothing has been a challenge in itself. Add in the long working days and normal mum duties, it can be tiring.
“It’s all about planning and putting measures in place so that if my pager goes off and I’m not at home to be a mum, things still run smoothly. I write lists, meal plan and use visual timetables to help so everyone knows what needs doing.”
Operationally, Kate has found using breathing apparatus (BA) to be the most challenging but says she has overcome this with the help of her fellow firefighters.
She said: “Something that started off as the most terrifying experience has now turned into one of the things I enjoy most. With the coaching and support of my crew, I have overcome my fears and now I find it exciting and I can’t wait to get all geared up and go into a burning building to save someone’s life.”
When asked what advice she would give to other mums and aspiring firefighters, she said: “It sounds cliché but just go for it! I was scared of failing at first, and one time on my fitness test I did. But the crew helped me come up with a plan, supported me and I came back better than ever.
“The crew here don’t see me as a female, or as a mum, they just see me as Kate. A Firefighter just like them. We are all part of one team, one family.
“I’m not going to lie, there have been tears along the way, but there have also been a lot of happy tears too. I have achieved so much within the last 12 months, things I never dreamt I would.
“Being a parent is a rewarding job, but being a firefighter is on another level, I honestly love it!”
Notes to Editors:
Interviews can be arranged through prior arrangement with Corporate Communications on the details below.
About the Service
Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service provides emergency response, prevention and protection services from 20 stations across Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland. Its headquarters is based in Birstall, Leicester.
During 2019/20, we attended a total of 8,541 emergency incidents, including 2,079 fires and 748 road traffic collisions. A total of 7,274 Home Safety Checks were completed and we fitted 4,720 smoke alarms. 305 schools were visited as part of the Service’s schools programme, delivering fire and road safety education to 26,218 pupils. Staff organised or took part in 1,218 community safety activities, totalling over 11,000 hours of time engaging with members of the public.
The Service’s prevention, education, enforcement and inspection programmes have resulted in significant reductions in the number of incidents. In the last ten years, fire-related incidents have reduced by over 30 percent.
Direct: 0116 210 5768