This is the job I always wanted to do. I started as a retained firefighter in 2005 alongside my job as a postman, which meant I was on call for emergencies, and joined full-time about three years ago.
We’re day crewed here, which means we do 8.30am until 6.30pm ‘on station’, then we go home with an ‘alerter’ that makes a noise to call us back if there’s an emergency. We work four days on, four days off, and need to stay within five minutes of the station when we’re on duty.
We have a daily routine of checks when we arrive in the morning, then we’ll do training. The afternoons tend to be HSVs (home safety visits). We don’t cold call; we usually put letters through people’s front doors and ask them to contact us if they want safety advice.
We’ve got a ‘black museum’ of photos. It’s shocking when you see the aftermath of a fire that just started from a candle or a cigarette.
Shutting a door will give you an extra 20 minutes if there’s a fire. That’s quite a long time if you need to get out of the house.
You see some nasty things. Here in Lewes, we respond to an average of one or two calls per day. Most are RTCs (road traffic collisions). The service offers a lot of support for crews, with loads of people to talk to.
Today’s training simulates a collapsed building. We need to prop up the structure to make it safe while we cut our way through. The equipment’s kept in our Technical Rescue Unit appliance.
Fires are actually very rare. That’s why they always make headlines in the press. In the last year or so we’ve only had a couple of serious fires around here. All we ask is for people to be careful and stay vigilant.
First published in Viva Lewes magazine issue 98 November 2014