A WOMAN who was once homeless has defied the odds to become West Sussex’s new fire chief.

Sabrina Cohen-Hatton is now one of the most senior firefighters in the UK.

She has 18 years’ experience working with the London Fire Brigade, South Wales Fire and Rescue Service, the Welsh Government and Surrey Fire and Rescue Service.

But as a teenager, she spent two years sleeping rough after a family crisis.

When Ms Cohen-Hatton was nine, her father died from a brain tumour and her family was left in extreme poverty.

Aged 15, she ended up homeless in Newport, Wales. She sold copies of the Big Issue, and recounted how she was the victim of an anti-Semitic attack on the streets, when a man confronted her about her “very Jewish surname” and burnt her with a smouldering cigarette while hurling anti-Semitic abuse.

Since then, she has risen through the ranks to the top of the service, and was able to complete a PhD at the same time.

Ms Cohen-Hatton, a married mother of one, is a chartered psychologist and her research into critical decision making has received national and international recognition.

Ms Cohen-Hatton said: "It is an honour and privilege to be given this opportunity to lead the fire and rescue service in West Sussex.

“Throughout my service, I have witnessed the human and economic impact of the emergencies we attend.

"We are privileged to be trusted to help when these events happen, and also trusted to prevent them from happening at all.

“I know the immense pride our staff have in this, and I’m looking forward to working with the dedicated men and women of the service, colleagues across the council and our partners to keep our residents safe.”