Dorset and Wiltshire firefighters ‘photographed female crash victims’

Several women in fire service also claim to have been sexually harassed by colleagues

An investigation has been launched after allegations that firefighters working for Dorset and Wiltshire fire service photographed women who had died in car accidents.

The disturbing images were shared on an informal WhatsApp group and were then subject to demeaning comments from male firefighters, ITV News uncovered.

A whistleblower, speaking anonymously to the broadcaster, said: “I’ve seen people make comments about the type of underwear the women are wearing in the car crash.”

Another female firefighter said the retrieval of a dead body from a crash “should tear you apart” not “make you want to take photos of it” or joke about it.

“That’s someone’s loved one,” the woman said. “That’s someone’s relative.”

A number of female firefighters said they been victims of sexual harassment at various stations and been sent unsolicited photographs or sexually explicit messages from male colleagues.

A firefighter called Jess, whose name was changed by the broadcaster, said in one incident a male colleague attempted to kiss her while they were at the scene of a blaze.

She said the fire was “dampening down” when the rest of the crew were sent away to refill the fire engine with water, leaving her on her own with the colleague.

“Whilst we were alone, he was trying to kiss me,” she said. “Then he said: ‘if we hurry up, then you can give me sexual favours before they come back’.”

Jess also claimed that if she wanted to get ahead in the fire service it would cost her “sexual favours”, and in a separate incident an officer tried to force her to have sex with him before a training session.

Sarah, whose name was also changed, said she was sent explicit images by a male colleague. She subsequently decided not to join the fire service and now has trust issues because of the incident.

“It just affects everything,” she said. “It affects your relationships, it affects your trust as well.

“Because you meet someone new and you think, can I trust this person? Is he going to say something or do something? It makes you feel like you can’t trust any firefighter any more.”

The behaviour of various male firefighters was allegedly reported but the men are still currently working for the fire service.

Dorset and Wiltshire fire and rescue service said that as allegations of “criminal behaviour are involved”, they have alerted the police. The fire service added that the allegations raised by ITV News are “deeply concerning” and it will be launching its own independent investigation into the claims.

A similar review was undertaken by the London fire brigade last year that revealed incidents of misogyny, racism and bullying in the country’s largest firefighting service. South Wales fire and rescue service also commissioned a review of its culture and disciplinary processes.

In response to the allegations, a statement from Dorset and Wiltshire fire and rescue, said: “The matters that have been raised with us are deeply concerning and we take allegations of this nature extremely seriously.

“I am also commissioning an independent investigation. As part of this investigation, I will be providing all of our female staff with the opportunity to speak to an independent organisation.

“In addition, we have set up a confidential helpline so if any of our staff have immediate issues as a result of these allegations, the right support is in place.

“We are unable to comment on individual cases, but what we can say is that we continue to work to ensure that our organisation is a safe place, where staff feel able to report concerns of inappropriate conduct or behaviour.

“We are extremely shocked and appalled to hear about these allegations. We would ask that any individuals affected provide us with further information to allow us to investigate these allegations and to enable us to offer our support to them.”


Joe Middleton

The GuardianTramp

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