Fashion graduate who doubles as life-saver urges others to protect hometowns
08 February 2021
Flora Johnston is studying towards a postgraduate degree in Fashion and Textiles
A firefighting fashion graduate is urging more students to follow her lead and help serve on Scotland’s frontline.
Flora Johnston graduated with a First-Class Honours Degree in textiles at Heriot Watt University and is now undertaking a postgraduate degree in Fashion and Textiles.
The 23-year-old also doubles as a retained firefighter protecting the town of Galashiels.
Retained firefighters respond to emergencies via an on call pager system and often balance the role with primary employment or studies.
Flora is a former student at the esteemed Gordounston School, where pupils complete regular firefighter training and demos.
Flora revealed how her time at Gordonstoun inspired her to continue her vocation as a firefighter.
She said: “I had been a volunteer firefighter during my time at Gordonstoun, which gave me an introduction to the role.
“I never knew how much I loved it until I left Gordonstoun – I realised I really missed it.
“I always heard the sirens going past the student halls here in Galashiels, so decided to find out if I could be a part time firefighter – it was then I found out about retained.”
The SFRS is particularly keen to welcome more women as well as members of ethnic and LGBT+ communities to the role.
The retained role is varied and can include prevention work such as free home fire safety visits where firefighters provide residents with safety advice and even check or install smoke detectors.
It can also include showing people of all ages how to perform CPR and potentially save a life.
Flora is keen to see more people from underrepresented groups consider a career as a firefighter.
She said: “Anyone considering becoming a retained firefighter should never doubt themselves and never give up.
“The selection tests to get into the service were challenging.
“I trained to do a half marathon and was constantly working to improve my fitness and strength skills.
“But I like a challenge.”
Flora continued: “This can be a scary and challenging job, but the people in the team I’m part of have each other’s backs – you are supported every step of the way.
“I want people to experience what I have experienced because this is such a rewarding job.”
Flora’s lecturers and peers know about her passion for firefighting, which means she can exit lectures at a second’s notice to respond to emergencies.
Flora said: “You do have to be committed to the role but I think with every job there is a degree of juggling and time management skills.
“The fire service has been very flexible to work with. I’ve still been able to have a full student life.
“Joining the fire service has been one of the most phenomenal experiences of my life – you’d be silly not to consider it. Not only will you learn new skills, grow in confidence, but also learn to become resilient and be able to adapt in the face of challenging circumstances.
“The past three years serving as a retained firefighter have been immensely gratifying, I wouldn't change my time with the service for the world"