Nakita is a 33 year old Leading Firefighter at Technical Rescue Station, H27 Battersea.
Having spent her teenage years as an Air Cadet, she joined the London Fire Brigade at 20 to begin the most exciting journey of her life…….until now! Nakita is used to blazing trails and became London’s first female Urban Search and Rescue instructor and delivers practical sessions at the annual Women in the Fire Service National Training and Development event. She has also taken leading roles at two major joint agency national disaster exercises.
Nakita has attended many challenging incidents in her 13 years serving the people of London, none more so than the disastrous Croydon tram crash followed by the horrendous high rise fire at Grenfell Tower.
The Fire Angels expedition is hugely important to Nakita. She aims to show other women that they can achieve and succeed in any challenge in life, including overcoming PTSD. She says, “I think it’s important to recognise there is a stigma attached to mental health in society and it desperately needs to be tackled. I’m also hoping to show full disclosure of the problems we will face out on the ice and that a cool head can make all the difference when faced with adversity.
As an all-female team of firefighters from South Wales Fire and Rescue Service (SWFRS) and London Fire Brigade (LFB), they intend to be the first emergency service team to use muscle power alone to ski coast to coast across Antarctica on a route that has never been done by an all-female team before.
The challenge will take place in late 2023 with three years of specialist training and preparation required. In order to achieve their goals safely, the Fire Angels need to raise funds to secure vital equipment, satelitte communications, flights, medical cover and much more.
The Fire Angels hope to smash stereotypical barriers and inspire the next generation. The team hope the expedition will have a positive impact on future recruitment, so others can benefit from the rewarding career, as they have.
They are also looking to raise awareness of the impact of mental health on firefighters, who are often seen or portrayed as strong individuals who are impermeable to tragedy and able to cope with every situation. The Fire Angels want to highlight that emergency service workers are affected by mental health too.
To make this challenge a reality, the Fire Angels need to a raise a total of £500,000, whilst also seeking to raise vital funds for key charities such as The Firefighters Charity and The Fawcett Society. They are looking for inspirational sponsors to join them on their journey!
If you would like to sponsor the Fire Angels or have any questions, then please contact them via email: [email protected].
The Fire Angels are also raising money via their GoFundMe page here: https://www.gofundme.com/f/antarctic-fire-angels
Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role
My name is Nakita Ross, 33 from London. I come from a family of 8 children, Mother was a teacher and my Father was a police officer. Growing up I had always been active, whether that be in sports or joining Air Cadets as a teenager. I joined the London Fire Brigade in 2007 aged 20, I haven’t looked back since. I have gained numerous qualifications, including Urban search and rescue (USAR) and currently hold the rank of Leading Firefighter. This is the first officer rank and we help run the Watch. I am currently based at Battersea fire station which is a specialist technical rescue station. We are qualified in line rescue, water, specialist cutting gear and are qualified to deal with major incidents such as building collapses and train derailments.
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?
I guess I had in a roundabout way. I knew what I didn’t want to do and what type of job would suit me best. My parents had wanted me to attend Sandhurst and work towards becoming an officer in the Army like my Uncle had achieved. I was unsure, maybe I was afraid? It is to date my only point in my life where I wonder, “What if?”. So listen to your parents!! They know what they are talking about. But then it led me to the amazing career I have now! I knew I wanted an active job, I enjoyed helping people and strived in challenging situations. I applied for the Metropolitan Police and the London Fire Brigade. I managed to get accepted into both. My Dad was a Police officer, whose last station was based in Croydon. He said if there had been any other job he wished he could have tried it was to be a Firefighter. So in June 2007 I started my first day on station….and a nice plot twist it was Croydon Fire Station. The legacy of a Ross family member looking after Croydon continued.
Have you faced any challenges along the way?
I have. I was a young 20 year old woman going into a male dominated environment. Things were not easy in the beginning. But as time went on, when people were educated better and I continued to show those that doubted me that I could and I can, they changed. They realised they were wrong. Ironically the greatest challenge female Firefighters face is not within the fire brigade, in fact it is society. We still have people doubt that women can be firefighters, that we drive the fire engine, that we go into the fires, rescue people, that we are officers in charge! I have also dealt with some incredibly difficult jobs over my career. Over time every Firefighter attends traumatic incidents, here they may encounter a single tragedy or maybe an injury that results in that being life changing. We never know what our limit is for these but mine had been filling up over time, without even realising. Then the Croydon tram crash happened and I was mobilised to attend to assist with the removal of those that sadly did not make it. I was born and bred in Croydon, it really hit me. I tried my best to deal with it. I then moved to Battersea Fire Station and tragedy struck 8 months later with the Grenfell tower fire. Again I attended to recover those that sadly died. I spent 3 days climbing up and down, hours spent in one room slowly and carefully recovering those so they could be reunited with their family. This was the beginning of my biggest challenge. I was diagnosed with PTSD and I worked hard to recover. This then led me on my path to start the Antarctic Fire Angels….and well, the rest is history! Or we want to make history I should say.
What has been your biggest achievement to date?
I always find these questions hard because I am always looking to push myself, achieve something bigger and greater than the last. I don’t think I will know until I am old and reflecting on my past but I am sure the setting up of the Antarctic Fire Angels is definitely one of the top ones up there right now!
What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?
I think the support of friends, family and fellow firefighters. You are only as good as the people you surround yourself with. If they aren’t pushing you to be the best you can be then you need to be with people that will. And I certainly found those people!
How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?
I think it is a fantastic idea. I want people to achieve their full potential and more. I am currently mentoring 2 Firefighters on development on my Watch and it’s great to see their drive and passion for the job. I look forward to seeing their own career paths unfold as they go on.
If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Equality, what would it be?
I think it would be to highlight and celebrate the achievements of women in society just as much as their male counterparts. Everyone deserves to be celebrated for their achievements.
If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?
Do not be afraid, there are people around you that will be there to love and support you no matter what. Don’t be afraid to try and fail, it is part of learning. And you will learn 100 different ways not to do something but when you get it right you will never forget it! Keep pushing forward. And always listen to your gut instinct, it is your greatest weapon in navigating life’s difficulties.
What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?
My next challenge over the next few years is the Antarctic Fire Angels. We aim to be the first team of female firefighters to do a 1900km route across theAntarctic that has never been completed by a female team before. This is all in aid of empowering women, showing that they and the younger generation can achieve whatever they wish, as well as trying to remove the stigma of mental health amongst firefighters. We wish to leave a legacy by completing our expedition.