Iconic children’s TV show Fireman Sam is putting women off becoming firefighters as they are “not seeing themselves represented”, according to a female fire chief.
Alex Johnson, temporary deputy chief fire officer for South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue, said that most of the job is “nothing like it is portrayed” in the popular programme.
Fireman Sam first appeared on television screens in 1987 as a Welsh language character, making his debut in English on BBC One later that year.
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But the show’s portrayal of a male firefighter has been criticised by Ms Johnson for reinforcing outdated ideas about who can work in the fire service.
Just five per cent of the UK’s fire service is female, with 1,838 female firefighters working in 2017 compared to 33,782 male firefighters.
“This is largely because of the image of firefighters portrayed in the media and in films, which is of men rushing into burning buildings to rescue people,” said Ms Johnson.
“Children’s shows like Fireman Sam don’t help to break down stereotypes either. Most of the job is nothing like it is portrayed. We do community and youth engagement work, where we need to be seen to be representative of the population.
“Women and people from different ethnic backgrounds are simply not considering being a firefighter because they are not seeing themselves represented.”
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There have been 200 episodes of Fireman Sam produced to date and the show has been sold to more than 40 countries around the world.
The first run utilised stop-motion animation and ended in 1994, but Sam returned in 2003 and made the jump to computer-generated animation in 2008.
A spokeswoman for Mattel, which owns the Fireman Sam brand, said the company was committed to “representing the work of all firefighters”.
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She added: “We are constantly evolving to make sure that we stay true to the show’s heritage, as well as representing the world that children see around them today.
“The team are always referred to throughout the show as firefighters except Sam, whose title has not evolved in his role as the show’s namesake. We recognise the need to stay relevant and we continue to evaluate the show to ensure Sam remains an aspirational hero for generations of pre-schoolers.”