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Today the Brigade’s first ever woman Commissioner Dany Cotton leaves London Fire Brigade after 32 years. Her long career has seen her break new ground for women in the fire service and open up the discussion around mental health issues in the emergency services.
She joined the Brigade at the age of 18 and at that time was just one of 30 female firefighters in London. Within 12 years, Dany became the UK’s first female station officer and from there, steadily rose through the ranks to become London Fire Commissioner in 2017.
Taking forward the Brigade’s Safer Together inclusion strategy Dany has ensured equality and diversity have been at the forefront of the Brigade’s agenda during her time in charge. The Commissioner launched #FirefightingSexism, a campaign which aimed to tackle the stereotypical depiction of firefighters and the outdated use of the term ‘fireman’ in the media. The hashtag is now used worldwide by fire and rescue services and has helped champion women in the fire service and their years of struggle to get recognition that firefighting is for all.
In Dany’s time as Commissioner a record number of women have applied to be a London firefighter and young women now represent half of the Brigade’s fire cadets.
Dany has attended significant incidents throughout her career including The Grenfell Tower fire tragedy which saw the biggest loss of life in a fire since the Second World War Following the fire Dany talked openly and candidly about the mental health issues faced by the emergency responders who attended the incident. By speaking publicly about her own situation and that ‘it is ok not to be ok’ she has successfully raised awareness and encouraged other firefighters to talk openly for the first time about their struggles.
Just three months into the job, she attended the Clapham Junction rail disaster where 33 people died She has also led crews at the Cutty Sark fire in 2007 and a 40 fire engine blaze near the Olympic Stadium on the evening of London 2012 closing ceremony.
Her career has seen her receive a number of accolades, including being named as Public Servant of the Year in 2002, becoming the first woman to be awarded the Queen’s Fire Service medal in 2004 and winning the Most Influential Woman in Fire award in 2015. She has also held the positions of National Chair of Women in the Fire Service, Strategic Advisor to the Local Government Association and National Counter Terrorism (CT) lead.