Sunday, January 19, 2014
They are the backbone of the fire service, mixing their day jobs with helping the community, tackling fires and saving lives. But with more on-call firefighters needed, Hunts Post reporter LAUREN NASH pulled on a uniform and headed for training at Huntingdon Fire Station to find out what is involved.
Emerging from the ‘rat run’ – a labyrinthine of dimly-lit tunnels inside a mock-up house – I was full of admiration for the on-call firefighters who give up their time to protect our towns and villages.
It was a personal triumph for me, having always been somewhat dubious about confined spaces, but for the men and women of Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service this was just a routine drill ... well almost.
During most training sessions, the house at Huntingdon Fire Station would have been filled with smoke and the clock would have been ticking as the air contained in the cumbersome metal tanks, which are strapped to a firefighter’s back, slowly drained away.
But this was no easy task as the exercise included finding a ‘casualty’ and dragging the weight of a fully-grown man out of the building. Added to the equation was the sheer weight of the kit.
Escaping from the house led to the next training exercise – operating the hoses, aiming them at the tower to extinguish an imaginary fire.
I was completely unprepared for the huge force of the hoses and the physical effort needed to sustain a grip on the kit. Crew commander Trevor Butland had to stand behind me to stop me being propelled backwards. It’s demanding stuff.
I then had the chance to cut off a car door following a simulated road traffic accident. Trevor took the helm while I twisted the controls to cut a hinge off of the door of an old car. The door popped open with a satisfying bang, allowing us to then rescue the ‘casualties’.
The highlight of the exercise was a trip around the car park in a fire engine with another crew commander, Kym Napier, at the controls. With the blue lights flashing, it really was a childhood dream since my days of avidly watching Fireman Sam.
After over an hour outside on a cold, drizzly night, I was relieved to hear that we were retreating inside for a chat with the on-call firefighters.
Nora Ni-Mhuimhneachain left her job as a software developer to give her time to Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service and has been a firefighter for seven months. She said: “I did it to stay fit, join a team in the community and get to know the place.”
Sean Jordan, who is a customer assistant at Tesco alongside his role as a firefighter, said: “My 12-week training course was enjoyable. I’m still waiting for my first shout – I’m a little bit apprehensive.”
The on-call firefighters come from all walks of life. Their other occupations range from business owners to bartenders and they fit the paid role around the commitments of modern life. Jasper Vidot, who has been a firefighter for 19 months, said: “It becomes second nature and you work it into your life.”
The main requirement is that applicants live or work within five minutes of the fire station and are passionate about the job.
Watch commander Derek Lines, who has been a firefighter for 19 years, said: “We’re just looking for someone who is keen and committed to making a difference to our group and the community that we live in.
“They need to be a team player because we have to really trust each other when we go into a burning building.”
If it sounds like a role that would interest you, then Cambridgeshire Fire Service is holding a recruitment evening on Monday (January 20) .
Station commander Harry Edge said: “Come down and give it a go, find out what we actually do. You may be surprised.”
INFORMATION: It takes place at Huntingdon Fire Station, Hartford Road, from 6pm-8.30pm. For more visit www.cambsfire.gov.uk/recruitment or call 01480 444500.