They d never seen a black firefighter before

Interview LFB staff take part in the Pride in London parade 2016 (photo: Katy Blackwood, under CC.4.0) Black and minority ethnic (BAME) firefighters only make up 3.8% of employees in England s fire service, yet account for 14.6% of the total population, according to Home Office figures. The service is also male-dominated, with just 5% of firefighters in England and 6.5% UK-wide being female. A black firefighter has recounted how upon joining the London fire brigade (LFB) in 1990, people were patting me on the shoulder and clapping when they saw him emerging from a fire engine because they d never seen a black firefighter before.

If that sounds friendly enough, then Michael or Micky Nicholas also experienced discriminatory language and behaviour in his formative days at the LFB. I didn t have a particularly nice time when I first joined, he admits. Last year, Theresa May, then Home Secretary, criticised fire and rescue services for being 96% white and 95% male and for its culture of bullying and harassment . But speaking to the Guardian, Nicholas, 53, implies that things have improved somewhat when he says: Many years ago I couldn t even think of encouraging my kids to being in what I saw as a fairly negative environment for black people and for women. Now, certainly in the London Fire Brigade, I would support that dare I say encourage it. Nicholas is secretary of the Fire Brigades Union s (FBU) black and ethnic minority members section and involved in drawing up the LFB s 10-year inclusion strategy, which aims to increase the number of BAME recruits from 13% to 25% and of operational female recruits from 7% to 18% by 2026. Read the full interview on the Guardian.

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