5 Minutes with Uroosa Arshid


Uroosa Arshad is the first hijab wearing active firefighter in the UK. In this blog Uroosa answers questions about her education, religion, and career as a firefighter.

Why did you choose to become a firefighter? Did something or someone inspire you?
It all started when I was at Primary School, in Year 2/Year 3 when firefighters came into the school to do a talk on fire safety. At the time I thought they were so cool and were like superheroes. I did not see it as a serious career option back then, these visitors were just very inspirational. After completing my GCSEs at a local secondary school in Derby I enrolled at a local sixth form to study A levels. It was pre-planned by my school, family and society that I would go complete A levels and go on to study at University. A few weeks into sixth form I realised it was not something I wanted to do, but I continued with my studies because of the expectations people had.

On competition of my A Levels I had already decided I wanted to pursue joining the fire service, unfortunately, at that time they were not recruiting. I had a few jobs, and then trained as a personal trainer. I really enjoyed supporting and helping my clients. When I found out the fire service were recruiting, I applied.

Where did you study? What subjects did you study?
I studied A levels in psychology, biology, and Urdu at a local sixth form in Derby. I studied these subjects because I had considered studying animal behaviour or animal psychology at university. After attending a few open days at universities, it confirmed that studying at university was not something I wanted to pursue. On reflection I was more drawn to colleges and apprenticeships, but I was expected to go to sixth form and study at university.

What is the toughest part about being a firefighter?
For me the toughest part about being a firefighter is seeing situations that do not turn out in the best way. It is difficult when you do your best to help at an incident where things are deteriorating and are out of your control. Sometimes we have to leave a building to burn to the ground for the safety of everyone included in the rescue.

What is the best part about being a firefighter?
The best part of being a firefighter is the reaction from people when you help them. For me, that is when I know I have done a good job by saving someone or helping a person in some way. You know in that moment that all the training, revision, physical preparation and hard work to get to being a qualified firefighter has paid off.

What advice would you give to someone who is considering studying to become a firefighter?
The best advice is that if you are serious about pursuing a career as a firefighter is to study, and train because it is not an easy application process or job. I would advise you to talk to people who are in the job. Most firefighters are willing to talk about their experiences in their job and give advice. You can call your local station to enquire about speaking to someone about firefighting as a career and to find out more information.

What are your religious beliefs? How do these shape your values?
I am a Muslim and I follow Islam. My religion works so well with the work that I do. Our religion teaches us about peace, helping people and saving people’s lives however you can. We are taught to help those who are in a difficult position. Therefore, everything I am doing workwise correlates to my beliefs.

Are there facilities at work for you to practice your faith?
In my station we have a quiet room for all staff to use. This is not currently the case for every station in the UK but is something that the fire service is addressing. The quiet room can be used for prayer, reflection, quiet time and is for staff to use for their own wellbeing.

If you could speak to your 16-year-old self and give her any advice, what would it be?
I would tell my 16-year-old self to go with your gut feeling and not follow set expectations. I would tell her to go with what she wants and to do everything to make it happen. There are societal expectations that try to dictate what we should do but you need to do what makes you happy. That person who may be laughing at your aspirations right now, won’t be there in 10 years’ time. Do what is right for you.

Final thoughts – this is an opportunity to share any final thoughts or to cover something you think we have missed.

Take every opportunity and explore! There are so many different options out there and so many different ways to study and learn. You need to research and find what works for you.