Don't let size fool you! Meet Sweden's tiniest firefighter

Emma Löfgren
Emma Löfgren - [email protected] • 8 Sep, 2016 Updated Thu 8 Sep 2016 12:40 CEST
Don't let size fool you! Meet Sweden's tiniest firefighter

Part-time firefighter Louise Carlsson, who stands at 148cm (or 4ft 10in), tells The Local she hopes her story will help break down barriers.


Carlsson's story began when she quit smoking in 2012 and started to work out instead. Four years later, the full-time office worker in public procurement decided she wanted to put her new strength to practical use, so she applied to join Sweden's fire and rescue service on a part-time basis.

But passing the arduous tests to be accepted onto the team was no mean feat.

"It was difficult, but I had been working out for four years so I had already built up a lot of muscles. I applied for the job in February, and I've been working since May this year," she tells The Local.

The protective clothing alone weighs around 23 kilos, half of Carlsson's own body weight, and compared to the rest of the crew at Bengtsfors station, she admits she cuts a short figure. The 37-year-old reveals her size has sparked a few raised eyebrows while out on the field, but loves her work and the camaraderie.

"On my station they have been great, all of them. No problems. I've done and passed exactly the same tests as they once have, I'm on the same level as them. Everyone's been great," she says.

Carlsson and her colleague Sasa Domic. Photo: Private 

But although Carlsson demonstrably has the physical strength to handle the job, she insists the firefighter vocation is about more than just muscles and body mass.

"You don't just need to be strong, you need to have the right techniques for carrying, for lifting, for carrying big hoses, there's a lot of technique, it's not only about being strong," she explains.

Her first job was a call-out to a forest fire, which saw her and the team battle the blaze for 13 hours straight. But although she says she has not yet had to face the classic scenario most people imagine when they think of firefighters – boldly running into burning buildings to save someone's life – she will be ready when it comes.

"I know that I will have this kind of situation sooner or later and I don't think you can prepare. When I'm on call, you know, it's a role, it's not me as my person, it's a role and I have to act, I have to do my job, that's what I'm hired for," she says.

Carlsson became a firefighter in May 2016. Photo: Private

Carlsson's story has grabbed headlines in Sweden and she was first interviewed by Gothenburg-based regional newspaper GT. Herself a mum of two teenage daughters, she says she hopes it can help break down barriers, so that gender stereotypes or prejudice don't stop people from following their dreams.

"If I can be a role model that would be great. You need to try, I think everyone can do it if they want to. You know, I'm not even one-and-a-half metres, so if I can do it..." laughs Carlsson.

"The best advice: just do it! The best way to get what you want is to decide what you want and just go for it!"

Interview by The Local's intern Jack Schofield.


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