Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue Service has decided after complaints from local residents that Fireman Sam is too male as the service struggles to attract more female firefighters.
Fireman Sam, the animated children’s TV series known in more than 40 countries, has been used by fire brigades in the UK for many years to promote fire safety but has come up against gender equality controversy.
But after a gender equality complaint, Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue Service has decried that Fireman Sam is too male, too pale. This is the same Fireman Sam TV series that has been translated into over 25 different languages including Mandarin. The Fireman Sam TV series now includes disabled and ethnic minority characters, while Penny Morris has long been part of his firefighting team in the fictional Welsh village of Pontypandy.
Acting on complaints from local residents, Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue Service said in an email, cited by the Lincolnite; “A decision has been made not to include images of Fireman Sam on posters or advertising going forward, as it does not reflect the inclusive nature of Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue.
“Please can you ensure when you are designing posters that Fireman Sam is not used and more inclusive images are utilised.
“This also includes no longer using the Fireman Sam costumes on stations and using the Freddy and Filbert costumes instead.”
Freddy, Filbert and Penelope are fire extinguisher characters created by Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue Service.
Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue Service Chief Fire Officer Les Britzman claimed that “firefighters nationally and residents locally have raised some concerns that ‘Fireman Sam’ doesn’t reflect the fire service today, in terms of both the job itself and our workforce.
“It’s important to us that our open days and community events don’t make anyone feel excluded and therefore we took this decision.”
The decision has provoked outrage.
Having spent hours watching #FiremanSam with my grandsons I can confirm it’s the most PC program imaginable with female firefighters doing exactly the same as Sam. This increasing desire to remove men from being role models is getting ridiculous https://t.co/STqX2KOpjG
— Susan Hall AM (@Councillorsuzie) September 11, 2019
UK TV host Piers Morgan, a former newspaper editor, became involved in a heated exchange with Britzman on the UK’s TV show Good Morning Britain.
“It’s a sad fact that 95 per cent of our workforce are men, whereas half our population are women,” Britzman told Morgan.
“The reason more women don’t want to be firefighters is because of images like Fireman Sam.”
Morgan said the fire chief’s argument was invalid because he was a white-skinned man.
“But you’re the head of the Lincolnshire Fire Service and you’re a man, right?
“Why are you not a woman if you feel so furious that the front person for the fire service should be male?
“Will you be resigning then, given that you feel so strongly about this?
“I just don’t get it,” Morgan said.
Britzman replied: “It’s not hypocrisy. Yes I’m a white man, across FRS there’s about 95 per cent white males. Me being a white male does not reflect our society, roughly half our society is female.
“Yes Fireman Sam is modern it has firefighter Penny, it has helicopters and a boat team. But why can’t the producers or the owners update the brand and call it Firefighter Sam?”
UK’s Fire Brigades Union is more concerned about the term ‘fireman’.
— Fire Brigades Union (@fbunational) September 11, 2019
We think Sam does a great job at keeping the people of Pontypandy safe. But the term fireman is hugely outdated – we’ve been called firefighters for 30 years now. Here at BFRS we welcome all applicants, regardless of gender or gender identity 👨🚒👩🚒 #firefighters #FiremanSam pic.twitter.com/r6I2QM47DD
— Beds Fire and Rescue (@BedsFire) September 11, 2019
Dora the Explorer is sexist & discourages men from becoming explorers. pic.twitter.com/5mieLPnia5
— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) September 11, 2019
In response to the gender equality issues, the creator of Fireman Sam said he was never meant to be a promotional vehicle.
“It is for children, it wasn’t meant to be advertised as a recruiting post,” they told The Sun.
“It is supposed to teach kids some small safety items. Someone doesn’t join the fire service when they watch Fireman Sam.
“They wouldn’t be the right people for the job if that was their mentality.”
It’ll be Bob the Builder next but we all know that Wendy was the brains of that outfit! 😆
— Jo (@Just_Jo) March 19, 2019