In the face of backlash over inclusivity concerns, a U.K. fire department has done away with its male mascot.
Fireman Sam is the star of an eponymous animated children’s program. Until recently, he served as the mascot for Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue Service.
However, the fire brigade has now decided that Fireman Sam is an archaic relic that does not represent modern values, the BBC reported on Wednesday. According to the BBC, members of the public and staff had complained about Fireman Sam.
In addition, chief fire officer Les Britzman told the BBC that the department was already having enough trouble getting women to join its ranks.
“There’s been a lot of research that says that images that young people have about what careers they want to do are formed when they are about four or five,” he said. “If you are promoting that image we might be stopping people wanting to apply for the fire service 20 years down the line.”
The Fire Brigades Union agreed with the decision. One of the executives from the FBU’s executive council argued that the word “fireman” is problematic.
“We’re not bothered about Fireman Sam,” Ben Selby told the BBC. “We’re bothered by the subconscious message the term fireman has created as an issue in our recruitment.”
“No-one in the country is called fireman anymore. It’s firefighter. That’s their rank,” Britzman told the BBC.
Fireman Sam is being replaced with anthropomorphic fire hydrants named Freddy, Filbert and Penelope.
The Fireman Sam controversy: “We now live in a very PC world”
Some users on social media said the rationale behind removing Fireman Sam was absurd.
BBC Breakfast presenter Dan Walker found the controversy “ridiculous.”
“We can’t sideline all male role-models – we just need more female ones,” Walker said in a tweet that was “liked” nearly 5,000 times.
If people are being deterred from applying because of a cartoon character I’m not overly confident they’re going to save me from a burning building if they did become fire fighters….
— Matthew Kavanagh (@mkavanagh791) September 11, 2019
“If people are being deterred from applying because of a cartoon character I’m not overly confident they’re going to save me from a burning building if they did become fire fighters,” said one commenter in response to Walker’s tweet.
Another commenter said their daughter had been a fan of Fireman Sam.
British pc bloody madness!
— its 1984 🇬🇧 (@its19841) September 11, 2019
The creator of the “Fireman Sam” TV show, London firefighter Dave Jones, weighed in on the controversy.
“I joined the fire brigade on my 18th birthday [and] if I had said I was a firefighter I would have been slapped down by my colleagues saying ‘you are not a superhero, you are just a fireman,'” he told the BBC.
“We now live in a very PC world.”