The story of UK’s first Female firefighter – failure wasn’t an option for this trailblazer

Steve O’Malley AFSM is a Leading Fire fighter and the Fairness and Inclusion Officer with the Melbourne Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB). Steve has been an operational Fire-fighter for more than 31 years and is a graduate in the study of Human Rights. In 2005 he was awarded the MFB’s Medal for Long and Good Service and the National Medal for Service. He received the Victorian Award for Excellence for Service to Victoria’s Multicultural Community in 2008, on Australia Day 2010 he became a recipient of the Australian Fire Service Medal (AFSM) and more recently a recipient of the National Emergency Medal for sustained service during the 2009 Victorian Bushfires. Steve was the recipient of the 2014 Chief Officer’s Scholarship, returning from a trip to investigate the Fire Brigade’s role in the primary prevention of violence against women in the UK.


​Josephine is passionate about changing culture by challenging social norms. Her story is one of creating opportunities and not being afraid to instigate change, of putting her hand up and saying yes I can do that. Yes I can make a difference.

(Interview Recorded: Wednesday 23rd August, 2019). 

In this episode/conversation, UK’s first female firefighter Jo Reynolds speaks candidly to Steve O’Malley about her adult life decisions.

Diving head first into a career in the last bastion of masculinity, firefighting. The world back in a Thatcher led England in 1983 was much smaller and for a woman entering the fire service much tougher. Having fought against the odds to become the first career firefighter in the UK, Jo’s yearning to spread her wings and take on what the rest of the world had to offer took hold and after 4 years as a firefighter it was on to her next series of life’s challenges and adventures. 

The adage, once a firefighter always a firefighter holds true with Jo, so 35 years after her adventure began she felt compelled to tell others, particularly young women and girls about her achievement in her book FireWoman. 

A special thanks to:

Jo Reynolds

Victoria University

Women and Firefighting Australasia Inc

Australasian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council

Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre


Episode 1