A fitness fanatic with international race pedigree has become a town's first female firefighter.

Fourteen years ago Dita Kotoulova moved to the UK from the Czech Republic.

As well as picking up qualifications in horse riding and interpreting, she threw herself into extreme obstacle course racing in a past-time that took her as far-a-field as Ohio, USA.

Then a year and a half ago, Ms Kotoulova's eye was caught by Essex County Fire and Rescue Service's request for on-call firefighters to support their full time teams.

"I was thinking about what I wanted my future to look like, and there it was, firefighter,” she said.

“My physical strength, my calm thinking during stressful situations, wanting to help others and my life experience.

"I thought it would be perfect.”

Already confident about her fitness and strength levels, she applied to be an on on-call firefighter after attending a taster session earlier this year.

Soon after, Ms Kotoulova visited Ongar Fire Station to introduce herself.

She added: “Before I came to the station I wondered how they were going to look at me and if they’d be thinking, ‘oh she’s a girl and she’s not going to be able to do it’, but I think when they saw how strong I was they just forgot about that.

"They treated me as part of the team straight away.

“I’ve found the fitness part quite easy.

"You do need to be strong and tough to deal with the heat, but the experience is pretty much exactly as I expected, and I think that’s because I’d already spoken to so many people about doing it.”

Having celebrated becoming Ongar's first female firefighter with a barbecue hosted by crew, Ms Koutlova is now looking to become a fulltime member.

Essex County Fire and Rescue Service is currently recruiting on-call firefighters at Ongar and many other stations across the county.

If you live or work within five minutes of an on-call fire station, are over 18 and physically fit, apply online.