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West Midlands' first female firefighter retiring after 30 years

By Jamie Brassington | Bloxwich | News | Published:

The West Midlands' first ever female firefighter has announced her retirement after 30 years.

Julie Cooper, pictured left in 1989 and right in 2019, is retiring from West Midlands Fire Service

Julie Cooper says she has enjoyed a "rewarding" career where she has progressed from a firefighter to a watch commander in Walsall.

She rose through the ranks at England's second largest fire service before becoming a mentor in the training department.

Despite being the only female on her training course, Ms Cooper said she was "unphased" by the prospect and relished the challenge ahead.

WATCH: First female firefighter on exciting 30-year career

West Midlands' first female firefighter retiring after 30 years

She went on to have a highly successful career, working as a firefighter for eight years and then being promoted to watch commander.

She was formerly based at Bloxwich before working out of Walsall Fire Station at the centre's training base.

Now she is looking forward to her retirement in a new "exciting chapter" of her life.

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She said: "On the start of the training course, there was 41 of us actually that turned up.

"Me, myself, being the only female, that didn't phase me. I was quite determined for the challenge.

"It was 13 weeks that we actually did. It was challenging, but it also made me feel proud achieving all what was required to actually get there.

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Julie, the only woman on her training course, went on to train firefighters herself
Meeting Prince Charles

"I did seven to eight years as a firefighter, learning skills, the knowledge, operational skills.

"Moving on to as a leading firefighter, I probably did that for about two, three years. Again, building the knowledge and skills at that sort of rank.

"And then moving onto sub-officer, which it was back then, which is Watch Commander A.

Julie Cooper, West Midlands Fire Service's first female firefighter, is retiring after 30 years

"And then I have had a great opportunity to then go into the training department. I did the recruit training back at the academy.

"I really enjoyed doing the trainee training at the academy. It is so rewarding, you can pass on the skills, the experience, the knowledge that you gain over those years.

"And to see them at the end, at their passing out, it is a fantastic and rewarding experience. I actually went discipline specific, which was the trauma department, and that is where I still am now.

Julie Cooper, West Midlands Fire Service's first female firefighter, is retiring after 30 years

"This role within the service is so varied. It has so many opportunities for you to challenge yourself.

"It is not just about riding the fire engine as a firefighter. And that keeps you driving within your career as a firefighter. It is a career, it is not just a job.

"So can I be a firefighter and have a family? Yes you can. Thirty years down the line, I have got two teenage sons. I have done it, and it has worked okay.

"Over thirty years I have done now and retiring, it is scary, it is exciting and new chapter in the life. It is quite surreal. I'm proud of what I have done, excited about the next chapter and got some fantastic memories."

Jamie Brassington

By Jamie Brassington
Senior Multi-Media Journalist - @JamieB_Star

Senior reporter at the Express & Star. Contact me at jamie.brassington@expressandstar.co.uk.

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