Astonfields Staffs FireWhat happens if you're a firefighter and you decide to start a family? Kentish Town firefighter Charlene Mitchell sheds light on being pregnant in one of the biggest fire services in the world.

"I always knew I would want children," said Charlene. "It was something I thought about a lot before I decided to join but it was never a question of quitting when I found out I was pregnant."

Charlene has been in the Brigade for more than four years, having previously worked as a journalist. Her decision to join the capital's fire service came about when she wanted to do something different from a regular nine to five desk job.

"I wanted something that enabled me to get out and about and I wanted a bit of variety when it came to the work I was doing. I am also a very sporty, active person, so the fire brigade seemed like the perfect match for me.

"We get a bit of adventure and excitement but we also get to go out every day and interact with people in the community, whether it's putting up smoke alarms or giving out fire safety advice," said Charlene.

To apply to be a London firefighter you need to be 17.5 years old, have a full driver's license and a permanent London address for the past 12 months, although there are some exceptions, for example, for those serving in the armed forces.

There are currently 326 women in London Fire Brigade – approximately 7% of the operational workforce – but earlier this year Commissioner Dany Cotton, the first woman to the lead the Brigade in its 151 year history, called for more women to join London Fire Brigade.

When Charlene found out she was pregnant she immediately informed her watch manager and, due to the risks of being on the front line, was reassigned to a non-operational role.

Charlene said: "I had a variety of options to choose from but decided to stay at the station because I wanted to be surrounded by the rest of the crew.

"Although I'm not able to go out on the fire engine and go to incidents, I still come to work every day, get to interact with the crew and get involved as much as I can.

"I help out with a variety of jobs around the station, such as adding training to the system. Being pregnant definitely hasn't stopped me being part of the team – I still feel just as much a part of the team now as I did before."

Firefighters work a 42-hour week consisting of two days and two nights, however, there are a range of flexible working options available to help achieve a better work life balance. This includes working just two days, working two days and one night, or just working four days.  

Charlene added: "If any woman said to me they wouldn't join the Brigade because they wanted to start a family and become a mum I wouldn't really understand why.

"There are so many benefits to this job and there really is no reason why you can't be in the fire brigade and be pregnant and a mum.

"It can be just as simple and easy as a normal nine to five job, if not better."

Following maternity leave firefighters are guaranteed to return to their current post. Their station manger will put training in place so they can be ready to go back to operational duties.