October 24 2014 Latest news:
Wednesday, March 5, 2014
As the proud owner of a Ford Ka, there couldn’t be a more different driving experience than getting behind the wheel of a fire engine.
But I got a taste for the job after training with the on-call firefighters in Huntingdon back in January, crawling through tunnels, tackling imaginary fires and cutting off car doors.
Then I was just a passenger – this time it was for real.
Station commander and Fire Fighters Charity Representative Martin Ockenden and Kev Partridge, a firefighter at Huntingdon fire station, met me at Alconbury Weald where, after a quick run-through, I hopped into the hot seat.
It didn’t exactly go smoothly, though. It took a good few tries for me to release the handbrake. In my defence, Kev did tell me to push it up, when what he really meant was pull it towards me…
After that minor setback we were off, and I put my foot flat to the floor to get the beast up to speed. It was an incredible feeling to be sitting so high up, surveying the vast expanse of the Alconbury airfield runway.
I managed to get it up to 70mph before spinning around and doing a few more laps of the track.
When Kev told me to do a bit of slalom, I did feel sorry for our photographer, Helen, who was thrown around on the back seat.
When I brought the engine to a jerky stop, I almost caused a diplomatic crisis. As someone who has only ever driven a manual, it’s second nature for me to depress the clutch. The only problem is that in a fire engine, the left-side pedal doesn’t operate the clutch … it starts the siren.
Kev and I then had to frantically try to stop the noise before anyone of the workers in the neighbouring buildings complained. If it did bother anyone, I’m very sorry – it comes with the territory of being a novice.
All in all, it was a fantastic experience. I’d encourage any other women out there who are thinking of getting involved in the Ladies Driving Challenge to have a go.
On the day, you’ll be able to drive not only fire engines but arctic lorries, tractors and plenty of other super-sized vehicles.
The event will raise money for The Fire Fighters Charity which provides support, rehabilitation and care for fire service personnel across the country.
Martin said: “This is the chance for women to get behind the wheel of some weird and wonderful vehicles in a safe environment, which they would never usually be able to drive on the road. Last year we raised £25,000 and this year we’d love to hit the £30,000 mark. It’s always a great success and it seems whatever the weather – and however strange and gigantic the vehicles are – the ladies always have a good time.”
INFORMATION: The event is on Sunday, May 11, but spaces are limited to 300. Registration costs £10, with a minimum sponsorship of £90.
The fire service also want businesses to come forward and hand over their vehicles for the day. For more information and to register, call 01234 845130 or email email@example.com.