Kylei Holmes-Lewis is a serving leading firefighter with London Fire Brigade. Kylei joined in 2010 and was promoted to leading firefighter in 2021. Her role involves managing a crew of firefighters at incidents, as well as facilitating their training and development so they are operationally fit and ready for duty.
“It’s important to mark International Women’s Day each year, I think mainly to boost confidence in women but also, more importantly, to move with the times. Things are changing so let’s just roll with it and embrace it.”
Educational background and career to date
I am a 2:1 Bachelor of Media and Cultural Studies with Honours Graduate from Kingston University 2007 and I’m currently a serving leading firefighter with London Fire Brigade. I have been in my career for 12 years this October.
I was promoted last year to leading firefighter, which involves managing a crew of firefighters at incidents, as well as facilitating training and development of myself and the rest of the team at the station so that we are operationally fit and ready.
A day will usually consist of ‘roll call’ (detailing the roles and riders of the firefighters on duty) then uniform and inventory checks to ensure that we are fully equipped and riding with the necessary tools and personnel.
I will liaise with my sub-officer and station officer (usually the shift before) and read out the schedule for the day with regards to training, stand-by duties for fire cover/training and community fire safety.
For us, work didn’t stop during the pandemic. We had to navigate our way around the effects and repercussions of COVID-19. We were working through challenging times as a workforce and also had personal issues to deal with regards to ensuring we were available for work and staying safe for ourselves, our families, colleagues and the public.
I was away from my son for four whole weeks as I did not want to risk the transmission of COVID-19 to my mum who had offered to look after my son while I was required to be on duty. That was by far the hardest four weeks of my life. I was heartbroken when I could only wave to my son from the front gate of my mum’s house and video call him whilst he was in tears, not understanding why he couldn’t stay with me.
It was quite a lonely time for some keyworkers as they were away from their families and were thrust into a new way of working that nobody had the experience for.
Gender balance in London Fire Brigade
I joined in 2010 and my first posting was Brixton Red Watch – I was one of 13 firefighters and there was one other female firefighter on the watch. She left one and a half years later, which meant I was the only female firefighter on the watch for almost eight or so years. There are various Equality Support Groups within the brigade that give its members a platform and a voice.
Stats-wise, 9% of London Fire Brigade’s operational staff are female.
International Women’s Day
It’s important to mark International Women’s Day each year, I think mainly to boost confidence in women but also, more importantly, to move with the times. Things are changing so let’s just roll with it and embrace it.
#BreakTheBias to me means, questioning the ‘norm’. The ‘norm’ is changing daily and we as a society need to fully embrace change and welcome diversity with open arms. It’s not about trying to be better than any particular group, rather, it is about using skill sets, experiences and support from each group to achieve the greater good.
IWD 2022 celebrations
The Brigade is organising a number of virtual staff events to mark International Women’s Day, including hearing from inspirational speakers and a panel discussion about challenges and bias women still face in the workplace.
We will also be using our social media channels to celebrate and showcase the stories of our female firefighters, control room operators, fire engineers and support staff who work at London Fire Brigade.
I am looking forward to excelling in my role as leading firefighter, expanding my knowledge of the organisation and key relationships with outside organisations. I am looking forward to climbing the ranks whilst finding solutions and new ways to enhance London Fire Brigade in its operational delivery and dedication to diversifying its workforce.