Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service

Heather Smart Awarded MBE in New Year’s Honours

Northern Ireland’s First Female Firefighter Awarded MBE in New Year’s Honours

Heather Smart, Northern Ireland’s first female Firefighter, has been honoured in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours List, receiving the prestigious Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for services to the advancement of women in NIFRS.

Heather, from Ballyclare, joined the then Northern Ireland Fire Brigade in 1991 and retired earlier this year after 27 years’ service with Red Watch, Knock Fire Station.

Heather has been recognised for her role in advocating a career in the Fire & Rescue Service to women, paving the way for the 62 female Firefighters currently employed by NIFRS. She has been an inspirational speaker at career outreach events in local schools and played a key role during NIFRS ‘Come and Try’ days – a programme to give women the opportunity to find more about the role of a Firefighter.

In addition to her day job as a Firefighter responding to emergency 999 calls, Heather also made a valuable contribution to local fundraising activities including The Fire Fighters Charity.

Carmel McKinney, OBE, Chairperson, NIFRS Board said –

“On behalf of the NIFRS Board, I offer my sincere congratulations to Heather on being awarded the MBE. As the first female Firefighter in Northern Ireland she was a trailblazer of her time and leaves a legacy as a positive role model for others. This award is testament to her dedicated 27 years’ service, the mentoring she gave to other female Firefighters and her passion in reaching out to women to consider Firefighting as a career.”

Alan Walmsley, Interim Chief Fire & Rescue Officer, Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service said –

“On behalf of everyone in NIFRS, I would like to congratulate Heather on her MBE. Heather demonstrated considerable drive and determination to successfully pursue the career she had her heart set on. She was a passionate advocate and ambassador for female Firefighters and helped change the culture of the organisation at that time. This award is a fitting recognition for her achievement as Northern Ireland’s first female Firefighter.”

Notes to editors:
• As at 28 December 2018 there are 62 female Firefighters across 69 posts (7 are Wholetime and Retained Firefighters)
• NIFRS has 1,710 Firefighters (818 Wholetime and 892 Retained).

For further information please contact: During Office Hours – Corporate Communications Department, Tel 028 9266 4221. Out Of Office Hours – Duty Headquarters Officer, Tel 028 9266 4221.

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