UK's first hijab-wearing female firefighter urges youngsters to follow their dreams

Uroosa Arshid has specially adapted headwear for her work

Britain's first female hijab-wearing firefighter says it was her childhood dream to fight fires.

But Uroosa Arshid, 27, told The National she never envisaged it would become a reality.

However, two years ago she joined Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service, in central England, and has worked with the force to ensure she can carry out the job and stay true to her faith.

"When I was a little girl, firefighters came to my school and gave a fire safety talk. I was in absolute awe of them, I thought they were superheroes, and I wanted to be one," she said.

"There have been barriers and it has been challenging because when I joined there wasn’t anything in place for me to practise my faith, as well as carry out my role safely.

"But my colleagues have been great and helped to find a solution."

Now, Mrs Arshid wears a specially designed hijab from Thailand that fits safely under her helmet.

"It is no different to having hair or no hair, I wear a hood and mask over it," she said.

"It is completely covered and safe due to the personal protective equipment. It is just like wearing an undergarment.

"It is made so there is not much elasticity and so it is comfortable and breathable to allow the face mask to go over it and create a complete seal."

She described her job as "incredible" and wants to encourage youngsters to follow in her footsteps.

"I love it. I’ve had a lot of positive feedback from younger girls who say they see me as a role model,” she said.

“My partner inspired me to go for this career and pursue my dream … and it seems people are now being positively affected.

"I never thought as a Muslim female I would be able to do it and I hope now other youngsters see me and know they can achieve their dreams, too."

The fire service carried out a risk assessment during Ramadan to ensure she was able to continue her role.

"It is tough in Ramadan," she said. "But Ramadan is not supposed to be easy. I have found the job to be very flexible around it, I am able to pray when I need to and I have had a lot of support."

This year police in nearby Leicester began trialling an operational hijab to encourage more Muslim women to join the force.

Leicestershire Police says it is the first force in the country to trial this specific head covering, although other uniform headscarves have been worn by police in London, North Yorkshire and Scotland.

EDITOR'S PICKS
NEWSLETTERS