My journey (so far) to become an on-call Firefighter by Tony Hill

Well, who would have thought it? Of all the activities that I have taken part in throughout my life I think I may have saved the most fulfilling role till last as (hopefully) an On-call Firefighter!

A casual conversation with my hairdresser Claire in Shipston (who is the partner of “T”, one of the crew members at Shipston Fire Station) made me aware how desperate the Fire & Rescue Service here in Shipston was for crew members. This certainly made me curious so that very Tuesday evening in October, which was drill night, I made my way to Shipston Fire Station. There I met Chris Townsend (Watch Commander), Sian (Crew Manager) together with the rest of the crew, Steve (who incredibly is also a Whole-time Firefighter in Kent!) Jack, Warren and of course “T” (Tristan).

How welcome they made me feel! It was immediately obvious to me that here was a very keen, professional, and enthusiastic squad that meets every Tuesday evening for 2-3 hours of theory and/or drill in the performance of certain simulated emergency scenarios. These have included, in the time that I have been going along on Tuesday evenings as an observer, search of a building and rescue of casualties reported (in which I played the role of the casualty in order to give it some authenticity) wearing Breathing Apparatus and blindfolded, rescue of a casualty from height using lines and ladders, accessing the third floor of the purpose-built drill tower by ladder with hose-line wearing breathing apparatus, swift water rescue simulation, setting up of a makeshift dam using a tarpaulin and a ladder framework to simulate an open source of water, where mains water is not available, and pumping from there to the fire appliance or firefighting branch (hose nozzle) via a hose-line using a light portable pump and setting up of a hazardous chemicals protective clothing and treatment station. Next week I shall be observing how the crew deal with a trapped driver in one of the donated car wrecks stored in the drill yard. This will involve use of the hydraulic “jaws of life” which cuts through steel like a knife through butter.

I have been asked to muck in on several occasions and, under supervision wearing PPE, I have run out hose-line and rolled up the hose after use and tried on a breathing apparatus set, to get a feel of what it would be like in the role. My learning curve is vertical, but I am soaking up information about firefighting like a sponge and I have been encouraged to ask questions of the team who have been only too pleased to impart their knowledge and experiences. I am beginning to slowly grasp the Firefighters technical language and use of the many acronyms in the Service.

Of course, there are however certain tests to pass before one can become a Firefighter. These are both physical strength tests and written tests involving standard numeracy and demonstration of understanding information provided. For me these take place in March of this year. This is the challenge I face since I do not have age on my side! Regardless, it has really given me a goal to aim at and what better reason to get me back in the gym three times a week knowing that one day I could possibly be involved collaboratively in saving a life!

I am certainly working hard to give it my best shot to pass the tests and hopefully to proudly take my place alongside “T” and the crew at Shipston Fire Station, call sign FS34 Papa 1. So how about joining me on this journey? Your Fire Station needs you!

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