With Mothering Sunday approaching, the son and daughter of Kent firefighter Nikki Escudier have told her: “We’re really proud of you mum.”
Nikki, 33, balances her time looking after her children Kaitlin, aged six, and Jayden, nine, with working as a watch manager at Ramsgate fire station.
Working two day shifts then two nights each working week, she often finds herself kissing her children goodnight before racing off with colleagues to rescue people from a burning building or a road traffic accident or to help at a medical emergency.
But she said that being a firefighter is a great job for any parent as Kent Fire and Rescue Service is understanding and flexible to the needs of small children.
Nikki’s children, Kaitlin and Jayden, said: “Our mum is the best, she is always there for us.”
Their dad, Dave Escudier, a Group Manager at Kent Fire and Rescue Service, added: “Nikki is a great mum who is an absolutely massive part of our children’s lives.
“She is also a great firefighter who spends her working time with her team saving people’s lives.”
Nikki first wanted to become a firefighter while a pupil at Clarendon House Grammar School, in Ramsgate – now part of Chatham & Clarendon Grammar School.
The school premises backed onto Ramsgate fire station and there she could see the fire crews train and set off to respond to emergencies.
She said: “It looked like a really exciting job and I made up my mind when I was a teenager that it was what I wanted to do.”
At the age of 16, Nikki became a junior retained firefighter at Ramsgate, a voluntary post, and spent each Tuesday evening training with the crew.
At the time she was too young to go out to fires, but learned the practical side of the job.
Nikki did this while completing A levels in maths, physics, sports science and general studies.
Then, at the age of 18, she became an on call retained firefighter while also working as a dental nurse.
She was given a pager and she allocated a certain number of hours per week when she was available to help with emergencies.
For example, she was one of the 120 firefighters involved in the huge blaze at Mr Gs amusements in Margate, which destroyed the four storey building in 2003.
At the age of 20, she became a wholetime firefighter – a full time post.
Since then, she has been out on hundreds of emergencies and has become the Watch Manager at Ramsgate.
Nikki added: “Like any parent, I can, of course, find it stressful, working a full time job as well as bringing up children, but Kent Fire and Rescue Service is a really family friendly organisation.
“They understand that it can be difficult for parents and are flexible so that Dave and I can balance work with family priorities. For example, if one of the children have a doctor’s appointment people on my watch will help cover so I can take them along.
“Also as I work a shift system of two days, then two nights and then four days off it means that I am probably able to drop off and pick the kids up from school more often than many working parents.
“I know many people may think that being a firefighter is an unusual job for a mum to do, but it’s not.
“Everyone helps and it is so rewarding. My children know what I do and they are proud of their mum.
“It is also great when you see people afterwards that you have helped on an emergency. Once a lady who had received serious injuries from a car accident returned to the station six months later with her children to thank us all. That was really special.”
Kent Fire and Rescue Service is shortly due to launch a recruitment campaign for Wholetime firefighters and people can express an interest in applying online.