The 27-year-old from Cleadon has fulfilled her life-long ambition to be a firefighter after becoming one of the service’s latest recruits.
She joins her brother Jonny Ramanayake, 29, a crew manager at South Shields Community Fire Station, with the pair becoming the service’s first brother and sister firefighters.
After her 15 weeks intensive training, Rachel took up her role as a firefighter on Sunderland’s Green Watch at Sunderland Central Fire Station last month.
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Around 5,000 aspiring firefighters applied for the role in the first recruitment drive since 2010.Rachel is one of 23 new recruits joining the service.
She said: “It was something I’d always wanted to do and I had watched Jonny growing up loving every single second of the job.”
Jonny, 29, from East Boldon, joined the service straight from college in 2008, aged 19.
Like his sister, he said being a firefighter was something that he always wanted to do, and couldn’t be happier to see Rachel take on her dream job.
The father-of-two said: “She has put in a tremendous amount of effort.. I am very proud of her. I can remember what it was like doing it myself and I know it’s not easy.”
During the training process, Rachel said one of her biggest challenges was running - having always preferred gym work - but said the support from those on the course was amazing.
She said: “It was intense, but it was run really well, so even though there were a lot of different stages you knew when each different stage would be coming up.
“There was plenty of support. The day I got told I had got the job was an amazing feeling. “I loved every single second of the training and I would encourage anybody who had every thought about it to apply.
“Everyone is so supportive and so helpful.”
Having been in the service for 10 years, Jonny had this advice for his sister: “Take every opportunity you can.
“There will be high moments and low moments, but every day is a learning day and you never ever stop learning.
“There is not one day you get up and don’t want to go to work.”
The pair say their parents Anne and Rohan Ramanayake, couldn’t be prouder.
Rachel added: “They are over the moon.”