Fireman Sam axed by fire chiefs for being 'outdated' and not 'inclusive' enough

Bonnie Christian
BBC

Fire chiefs have axed much-loved children’s TV character Fireman Sam for being “outdated” and not “inclusive” enough.

Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue Service dropped the 32-year-old character, who is white and male, from promotional material after residents complained he “doesn’t reflect the fire service today.”

Fireman Sam will be replaced by three new characters created in-house: fire extinguisher shaped Freddy, Filbert and Penelope.

Les Britzman, the service's Chief Fire Officer, told Good Morning Britain he was trying to increase female recruitment to the service.

He told Piers Morgan, who called for him to resign: “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."

Fire extinguishers Freddy, Filbert and Penelope will replace Fireman Sam at events and in promotional material. (Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue)

He continued: “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?

“The programme overall reflects the diversity but the character Fireman Sam doesn’t reflect diversity, we don’t call our firefighters firemen any more. It’s outdated.

Fireman Sam has been axed by local fire chiefs. (BBC)

“Lincolnshire is a very modern and progressive brigade, we have two thirds of our firefighters "on call", that means they come from their local community.

“We struggle massively to recruit on call firefighters, and women are not wanting to join they’re not applying. So in terms of keeping the public safe we’re struggling because women aren’t wanting to join.”

The children's show, set in the fictional Welsh town of Pontypandy, faced sexism claims in 2017 with a campaign to rename the show Firefighter Sam backed by London Mayor Sadiq Khan.

An email seen by The Lincolnite newspaper on Monday from an authority figure at the local fire service said: “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.”

The decision has sparked outrage online with the London Fire Brigade stepping in to defend the decision.

Responding to a tweet that said: "Yeah we need more firewoman.they can make the tea while the men are out on call", the LFB wrote: "When @GMB discuss Fireman Sam & someone from the fire service comes on to say why the title of the show doesn’t reflect our profession we get comments like this.

"And this is why we will continue to educate the public about why women make excellent firefighters. Don’t be like John."

Others labelled the move "ridiculous."

Susan Hall AM wrote: “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.”

One person wrote: “It's not equality to get rid of men in roles such as #firemanSam especially when the programme has women in the same role doing the same work so ridiculous.

While another added: “They’ve really axed Fireman Sam for being a male? This is the world our children are growing up in!! Being male is now a problem?”

One person wrote the solution is to include more female characters rather than axe male ones: “It is not a bad thing to encourage young lads to join the fire service. Just add the female character too for balance.

“The way forward is not to delete male role models, just include more female ones!”