Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service is celebrating with Group Manager Karen Adams today after she was awarded the Queen’s Fire Service Medal (QFSM) for distinguished service in the Birthday Honours 2018.

Karen has spent her entire 24 year career with Dorset and then Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service. In 1994 she became the first wholetime female firefighter employed by Dorset Fire Brigade.

Chief Fire Officer Ben Ansell said, “I am absolutely delighted that Karen has been recognised for her outstanding contribution to the fire and rescue service. In the face of considerable cultural challenges, Karen has proved herself as an excellent firefighter and a pioneering role model. Karen has challenged traditional perceptions and demonstrated the tangible benefits that greater diversity brings to the workforce. Her legacy is one where all 60 workplaces now have female facilities and a modern approach to accommodating diverse personal requirements. This has led directly to 47 more female firefighters joining the Service.”

Councillor Spencer Flower, Chair of the Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Authority, said: “I am extremely pleased that Karen has been awarded the Queen’s Fire Service Medal.  She has been instrumental as the Service has made the shift from being predominantly emergency response focussed, to one where prevention activity is championed as the most effective way to drive down community risk within our Authority area.”

Karen Adams QFSM said: “I am overwhelmed and extremely proud to receive this honour from HM The Queen and I look forward to celebrating at Buckingham Palace. My career has seen some significant changes in the fire and rescue service, in particular the shift in focus to fire prevention and the increase in women taking up operational firefighting roles. I am proud to have been part of the team that has worked to make the community safer through education and partnership working, the outcome of which has seen many lives saved.“

Karen is the Dorset & Wiltshire Brigade Secretary for the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), a post she was elected to in 2002. Since then she has worked tirelessly to establish positive and forward-thinking industrial relations, as well as leading, organising and participating in national FBU workshops to drive through women’s issues within the sector. As the lead negotiator for the FBU locally, she has worked successfully to improve facilities and equipment for female firefighters joining the Service.

Chief Fire Officer Ansell added, “In her role as an FBU official, Karen continues to fight to ensure and maintain appropriate terms and conditions for her members but has also understood the need for the fire service to modernise and has worked with me to find a reasonable compromise in areas of workforce reform. This is a relationship that continues to work for both sides.”

In July 2008 Karen was diagnosed with breast cancer and endured ten months of treatment. In her inimitable style, she organised a virtual ‘Around the World in Eight Days’ cycle event in Poole. Volunteers collectively cycled 24,906 miles on ten static bikes, 24-hours a day for eight days, successfully raising over £65,000 for Dorset Cancer Centre, Breast Cancer Care and Cancer Research to help other sufferers and to help eradicate this terrible disease.

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