Did you know that we have vacancies in 28 out of our 39 retained stations at the moment? We need to get the numbers up so that we can keep fire engines on the run as much as possible so we got to wondering, how much do you all know about being a retained Firefighter? What is one, how can you be one, what does it take, what kind of people are retained Firefighters?
We've got a new Firefighter, called Dec who has just started at King's Lynn station and we're going to be following him, through his journey starting out as a Firefighter. He's going to tell us what it's like, his highs and lows and if you've got any questions for Dec, you can ask them through our facebook page...
So, meet Firefighter Declan – one of NFRS' newest.
24 March 2017
On Monday night I got my first taste of water rescue training. I also discovered that you don’t need a river to practise water rescue techniques, apparently all you need is a drill yard and some imagination! We covered some of the things I may be asked to help with including setting up the raft. I also had a go at using our throw lines. They are bags of floating rope that we throw to people in the water so that we can pull them to safety.
I soon discovered it is not as easy as it looks. We had a target to aim for and to start with I was throwing it way too high or not long enough. After a few failed attempts though I started to get the hang of it.
I was also wearing the kit that we have for water rescue our drysuits. They aren’t as comfortable as they look but I’m sure it will keep me warm. At one point I was asked to go for a swim but I didn’t have my arm bands on so I could only paddle!
Last week we did some Road Traffic Collision training and cut up a car that was on its roof. Because it’s upside down it changes how we would deal with it and the types of kit we would use. It was a really good learning session for me as this wasn’t something I had done at training school. Again I learnt a lot from the more experienced guys on the crew on dealing with it, some of the fire fighters have been in nearly 20 years so there isn’t much they haven’t seen or done. I still haven’t had to cut up a car for real yet but the training we have been doing means that I am ready if I have to.
03 March 2017
I really enjoyed working at the shop but fancied a bit of a change. A friend of mine owns his own barbers and offered me an apprenticeship which sounded great to me as I love a haircut. I was really worried as this would affect some of the cover I could give. I spoke to Rob (my watch manager,) about it and we came to sort out how it might change. He said that so long as I can keep up most of the cover I give then we’ll be ok.
Most of my cover is going to be the same just one of the days is going to change so he was happy with that, he has even offered some of the crew to practise cutting hair on.
This week at drill we did some scenarios including a house fire with 2 people that needed rescuing from the first floor. Although I am not trained yet to use breathing apparatus I used loads of the things that I learnt on my initial course. I was on the crew that put the ladder up and had to lay out loads of hose as well. I can see why you spend so much time getting the basics right at training school, it then comes a lot more naturally when you have to do it on station.
I know there’s a course in a few weeks so I know there will be some new fire fighters working hard for 2 weeks.
14 February 2017
We have drill nights every Monday night. They are really good as we get to practise using the kit we have, ready for when we have to use it for real.
On Monday night we did some training with the whole time that were on duty. They had set up an exercise for us off station. We went to the docks to practise using the pumps to pump water. If there was a large incident we would need more water than a fire engine carries.
I really enjoyed working with the other crews. They have years and years of experience between them and I learnt a lot.
It was the first time that I had done any training off station and it makes a difference as you have to think more practically and be aware of what’s around you a lot more - like people, cars, animals - any hazards that type of thing.
It has been a bit quieter for fire calls over the last week or so which I’ve been told to expect from time to time but after a really busy weekend the other week I’m glad of the rest!
26 January 2017
Last week was a really busy week for me. My day job is in River Island, I help customers and sort stock so I’d been there during the week. River Island has agreed that if I get a shout and my alerter goes off I can go which is really great of them.
On Saturday, I had the day off from River Island, but if I hadn’t I’d have had to left there to go to a fire call. All of us retained Firefighters carry alerters (they look just like pagers) and they beep if there’s an emergency shout for us to attend. We then have to get to the Station as quickly as possible but obviously making sure we’re safe.
We went to a large fire in North Runcton just outside of Kings Lynn. I’m still at the point where sitting in the back of the cab, on blues and twos, driving through the countryside is quite a buzz, not sure how long that will last but right now it’s awesome. We worked really hard to get a water supply early on, there was lots of hose running which is something I am getting to be good at as you have to master the basics before you’re let loose on the technical stuff.
I found out on Saturday what fire ground feeding is as well. If you’re at an incident for a long time you get fed. A local Rapid Relief Team came out to the fire to feed us and all the crews that were there. Within an hour of them being called they were on site with hot tea and coffee and not long after that a fantastic cheese and bacon burger! Who would have thought that I would be stood covered in mud from working beside a pond having a burger in a field. Brilliant. The boss said that over 48 hours they’d fed between 200 and 300 Firefighters which is so great of them. Can’t tell you how much we needed that.
I have been back to that fire several times since then, it is expected to be burning for a few days yet. So all of us have to take turns to make sure people can do their day jobs and get some sleep, so I’m sure I’ll be back again. We had to keep an eye on it and make sure it didn’t spread. It’s too large to put out at the moment, but we have to monitor it and keep the area around it cool to make sure nothing else catches.
As with any jobs there are dramatic bits and more boring bits, standing watching a fire to make sure it doesn’t spread isn’t the most exciting thing but it is important. When you’re watching icicles form in front of a fire it gives you the chance to get to know your crew. We had quite a laugh and the boss says its important for us all to be close, to work together as a team, especially when it’s really kicking off.
I also had drill night on Monday and we had another shout then. There was a small fire at the local sports centre. It was in the electrics, everyone was evacuated quickly and we soon had it dealt with. I got to work with some of the whole time Firefighters from Lynn on that job.
One thing I have enjoyed is meeting different Firefighters from all over the county this weekend. Even my brother who is retained at Attleborough came over to North Runcton as a relief crew at one point!
18 January 2017
I went to the College of West Anglia to study uniformed services. We worked with all the different services and armed forces but the only thing that really appealed to me was the fire service. It wasn't just the kicking doors down and putting fires out, but the fact that you help people that made me really think about joining. I've always enjoyed being outside and working practically and this just seemed the best fit for me. So I looked into joining my local retained fire station in Kings Lynn. I have now been "on the run" as a fire fighter for just over a week. Within an hour of getting my alerter I attended my first fire call which was a lift rescue. Fortunately everyone was ok, but it was great to get out the doors on blue lights at last. As soon as we got back we were straight into some training in the yard as well, no messing about.
I am really looking forward to getting involved with the water rescue side of the job, fortunately for me the Kings Lynn appliance has some specialist kit for that. Apparently you get chucked in a weir and left to splash about. I think they're winding me up a bit but I'm really looking forward to it.
I know there will be some tough things for me to deal with, in particular I know that I may have to attend incidents involving young people. I'm not looking forward to that, but there's a lot of experience and support on the crew that has already helped me.
As a 19 year old I am the youngest member of the crew but I'm not treated any differently. There have already been a lot of laughs and I'm looking forward to lots more. And I've already got my first pay packet, the crew reckon that will help with my tight T-shirt addiction.