Teenage firefighter branded “political pawn” after being “banned” from passing out parade
Date posted: 17-07-2012
ESSEX FIRE BRIGADE have defended their decision to “ban” a 13-year-old female firefighter from her passing out parade as she intended to snub a senior officer.
William Edwards student, Samantha Graham had undertaken the seventeen week junior firefighting course in Thurrock. The culmination of the course was the passing out parade at Grays fire station on Friday where in front of transport minister, Mike Penning, young Sam would show all that she had learned in a mock-training exercise.
But according to her mother, Marion, Sam was not prepared to shake the hand of the assistant chief fire officer, Gary Fleming.
Sam’s father, James, is a fire officer and is part of an ongoing industrial dispute about pay and conditions.
According to her mother, Marian, Sam was informed that as she had indicated she would not shake hands with the commanding officer, it was best that she did not attend.
Essex Fire and Rescue Service (EFRS) has confirmed this. Deputy Chief Fire Officer (DCFO) Adam Eckley said:
“This was a local management decision and entirely based on the whole ethos of our successful Young Fire Fighters course, which underlines fire service values and behaviours.
“These values are set out on the first day of the course, when students sign a behavioural contract promising to be respectful at all times, pledging that they will not discriminate, bully and will respect people’s differences without making them feel awkward and uncomfortable.
The pass out ceremony is a celebration to mark the successful completion of the 17-week course and the 13-year-old girl in question made the decision to leave the course after being told she would have to join in all events on the programme, including shaking the hand of Assistant Chief Fire Officer (ACFO) Gary Fleming, the senior ECFRS manager presenting pass out certificates that night. It is baffling to us why a teenager would not want to shake the hand of a senior officer.”
The next day, Sam was part of a group of fire officers who attended the Hard Rock Calling concerts at Hyde Park. Sam was pictured with Rage against the Machine guitarist, Tom Morello.
EFRS has taken a dim view of this. DCFO Eckley said: “It is sad that this event has been built up into an FBU publicity stunt at a young girl’s expense. The 13-year-old was even paraded around by FBU militants on stage at a pop concert in Hyde Park the next day as a ‘treat’ for this behaviour, shaking the hand of FBU General Secretary Matt Wrack. People must draw their own conclusions.”