Louise Cannon

In 2001 Louise Cannon became the first woman to hold the rank of Station Officer in the Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB).

Honour Roll

"I just wanted to prove that I could become a Station Officer" - Louise Cannon.

It wasn't until December 2008 that she was joined by two other women. Louise joined the brigade in 1989 after completing a teaching degree and deciding it was not the career path for her. She wanted a challenge and, when she applied, the fire brigade had never employed a female firefighter. She did not work with another female for the first eight years of her career.

Louise's leadership and success in a new field of endeavour for women has meant that female firefighters are now judged on their skills, rather than their gender. Her achievements have led to a better acceptance of women both within and outside the organisation.

"I have always tried to do the right thing and be seen to be doing my job properly," she says. "In some respects, I wanted to try and make it easier for anyone else coming along. I was always reasonably conscious that at the beginning I sort of stuck out like a sore thumb - but when you put your gear on, you are the same as everybody else."

Louise's proudest achievements are lasting almost 20 years in the fire brigade with a good reputation intact and completing her Station Officer qualification. Gaining admittance on to the arduous Station Officer course is very difficult no matter your gender, as is passing the comprehensive course.

I was the first woman to apply and it was like, "Who does she think she's kidding'?"

Louise is now responsible for a team of people - their safety and their actions. She believes her temperament, her tolerance, her sense of humour and her ability to think quickly on her feet suit her current role.

Her goal now is to emulate her mentor, Station Officer Robert Short, and encourage and instill confidence in others she believes are capable of attaining Station Officer status. "It took him a couple of years of persuading before I had the guts to apply for it. He was a fantastic mentor and I want to do for others what this officer did for me."