I've always been up for a challenge: Ongar's first female firefighter
“Find your inner strength and never give up,” said Dita Kotoulova, one of Ongar’s newest on-call firefighter, who is determined to prove that if you have enough determination then you can achieve anything.
“About a year and a half ago I was thinking about what I wanted my future to look like, and there it was - firefighter,” she said. “My physical strength, my calm thinking during stressful situations, wanting to help others and my life experience - I thought it would be perfect.”
A self-confessed ‘fitness freak’, Dita moved to the UK 14 years ago from the Czech Republic, and alongside gaining qualifications in horse riding and interpreting, became part of the Nuclear Races Team; physically challenging herself to race over obstacles, something which has taken her as far afield as Ohio, USA.
Already confident about her fitness and strength levels, Dita applied to be an on on-call firefighter after attending a taster session earlier this year. Soon after, she visited Ongar Fire Station to introduce herself and was welcomed by the crew immediately.
“Before I came to the station I wondered how they were going to look at me and if they’d be thinking, ‘oh she’s a girl and she’s not going to be able to do it’, but I think when they saw how strong I was they just forgot about that. They treated me as part of the team straight away.”
And from day one Dita has proven she’s up for the challenge. “I’ve found the fitness part quite easy,” she said. “You do need to be strong and tough to deal with the heat, but the experience is pretty much exactly as I expected, and I think that’s because I’d already spoken to so many people about doing it.”
Dita has also found that it fits into her life well. Being self-employed and not working a typical 9-5 job means she can offer daytime cover, while still going about her life as normal.
“There’s a gym just up the road so I’m able to carry on training very close to the station and then just do my longer runs when I’m not providing cover.”
As Ongar’s first female firefighter, Dita is proud to tell her friends and family about her latest accomplishment.
“They’re all amazed and impressed – they all want to talk to me about it all the time. They are just over the moon and the Ongar crew are just as supportive – they even threw me a barbecue when I passed my training.”
Dita has ambitions to become a wholetime firefighter in the future, and is determined that by keeping up the hard work and motivation she’ll continue achieving her goals.
Want to follow in Dita’s footsteps and achieve your dream? Essex County Fire and Rescue Service is currently recruiting on-call firefighters at Ongar and many other stations across the county. If you live or work within five minutes of an on-call fire station, are over 18 and physically fit, we want you!
Visit join.essex-fire.gov.uk/on-call/ongar for more information on becoming an on-call firefighter.