I have been a full-time fire-fighter for the last 29 years and over those years I have seen and dealt with a large cross section of incidents from the adrenalin pumping, the amusing, the bizarre and the very sad but also the happy success stories.
The Fire Service gives the community we serve 24 hour cover 365 days a year. We are trained to a very high standard beginning with 13 weeks basic fire-fighter training in a Fire Service Training Centre involving the use of ladders, hose, pumps, breathing apparatus and first aid. These skills take us onto a Fire Station where your training continues through a year as a probationary fire-fighter. At the end of the year more exams and practical tests have to be passed. The training continues throughout your life in the service, with new techniques and equipment being introduced to the service at regular intervals.
Nowadays we are not just a Fire Brigade but a Fire and ‘Rescue’ Service with skills such as road traffic collision extraction techniques, rope rescue, swift water rescue, hazardous material training, advanced first responders… the list goes on. We are now a multi skilled service providing a much more extensive and better cover for the community.
The upsides of the job are when we use our skills and are able to save life, or prevent further damage to burning buildings, or just render a humanitarian service to someone in need, however big or small.
Obviously the down sides are when we are unable to save a life. This is something over your time as a fire-fighter you have to learn to deal with and it’s a time when the team you work with are at their best – pulling together to give the support any individual may need to get them through a bad time.
We work long unsocial hours doing day and night shifts, working a lot of weekends and bank holidays as do other emergency service workers. I only mention this not for you to feel sorry for us but for you to think of our families who have to deal with these odd working times and which often means we miss out as families on special occasions.
Over the years I have met some fantastic people through the job, both work colleagues and some very resilient people who I have met through incidents, people who will stick in your memory for life. I have also lost good friends and colleagues in fires over the years, they are still the hardest to deal with but thankfully it doesn’t happen very often. I suppose it’s a job that the worst could always happen but it’s not something you think about until perhaps after you have returned from a dangerous call and have time to reflect and think about what has just gone before.
In my time as a fire-fighter I have attended thousands of fire/emergency calls and even now I feel the adrenalin rush when the bells go down at the station, the anticipation of what the call might be. In a way it is strange that someone else’s plight can give you such a buzz, but I suppose that’s the strange world we live in.
I’m lucky I work in a job that on the whole is respected and appreciated by the community we serve, although there are still times when we get verbally abused and have rocks and stones hurled at us by the small moronic section of our society but thankfully it is not that often.
I still think I have the best job in the world and I’m proud to be a fire-fighter.