Katie Love

Watch Manager, Billingham

Sector: Fire Service

After initially being told she was too small to join the fire service, Katie Love joined the army. When she left the army, she found out that height restrictions had been lifted from the fire service, prompting her to apply again – and 16 years on, she is now the brigade’s first female operational watch manager. 

Where do you call home? 

Stockton, but I was brought up in Billingham. 

Tell us about your role?  

I am a watch manager at Cleveland Fire Brigade. 

How did you get to where you are today? 

I wanted to join the fire service when I was 17 but was told at a careers fair I was too small. Instead, I joined the army in the Royal Signals as a telecommunications technician when I was 18 and spent just over six years living and working in Germany, Northern Ireland and the UK. 

When I came out of the army, there were no longer fire service height restrictions so behind my back, my mam had given my details to Cleveland Fire Brigade. I then received an application form through the post and applied. Sixteen years later, I am the first female operational watch manager.  

What struggles or obstacles did you face along the way? 

I have had comments made like “you couldn’t carry me out of a burning building” and “I could do your job better” but I just smile and ignore them. I am comfortable knowing my capabilities and know there will always be small-minded people with opinions, but for me it makes me more determined to encourage more women into what I think is a fantastic job. I also have a fantastic team around me. Firefighting is not about individuals – we are a big team and having that diversity within a team is important. 

Describe the moment you first got a feel for success? 

I don’t think I’ve ever had a lightbulb moment. Success for me is having the respect and trust of my peers who, when asked, will risk their lives in dangerous situations.  

Do you have any advice for aspiring young females? 

You can do whatever you put your mind to. I have never understood the mentality of “I can’t” – just give it a go you might just surprise yourself. Don’t set yourself limits.  

What advice would you give to your younger self?  

Enjoy every minute, even the mistakes. Take those opportunities you’re not sure of as it always works out in the end. 

What three words inspire you and encourage a positive path?  

Positivity is contagious.  

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