How this fire chief went from being homeless to leading the Grenfell Tower aftermath
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24 October 2019
After being homeless at age 15 to starting as a part-time, on-call firefighter, Sabrina Cohen Hatton is now the youngest female fire chief in the UK, aged 36.
“I’m really excited to be leading West Sussex,” Sabrina said.
“My background means I really think about the human impact of everything we do and how we can apply that to make the service the best it can be.”
Sabrina joined the West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service 18 years ago and, since then, has led the coordinating centre after the 2017 Westminster attacks and ran the welfare centre after the Grenfell Tower fire, among many other career achievements.
"Grenfell Tower was the biggest incident I, and many of my colleagues, will ever work on. The dedication, steely determination and effort to do all they could makes me proud of what our fire crews did that day," she said.
She was sleeping rough in Newport, selling the Big Issue, before eventually moving to a new area and getting off the streets.
Sabrina said she 'had two and a half years of what felt like my worst-ever day' and she just 'wanted to rescue other people in a way that no one had been able to rescue me.'
"Your circumstances don’t have to define you: I want to challenge the perception of what a firefighter might look like. It’s about being calm under pressure, being decisive and working well as part of a team," she said.
A principle that she has lived by and encourages others to do, too: 'always take people not on face value, but on the strength of who they could be.'
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