There is no doubt that even in the short 11 years I have been a whole time FF the job has changed.
In almost every article you read about the Fire service, you’ll hear how fires have reduced by over half. This is mainly because of our prevention work, electrical safety and fire retardant material.
What these articles fail to tell you is that the role of the Firefighter has changed. We are no longer just expected to put out fires. To give you an idea I just have to look at my last tour at work.
I work out of an inner city multi pump Fire station, a Fire station that you would find in any large city in the U.K. As with many whole time stations we have special appliances. We probably have more than most. We have a turntable ladder, animal/water rescue unit and two boats.
On my first day we are mobilised to a horse in a stream. As an animal rescue station it’s our job to know about animal behaviour, anatomy of animals and the correct pulls and lifts to rescue the animals from these situations.
Later on in the day after several alarm calls we attend a road traffic collision (RTC). So we now move our knowledge to cutting up vehicles to safely extricate an injured passenger. Modern cars have never been so tough, our equipment has improved massively but having a good understanding of how a car is built can assist us in a safe resolution.
On our second day we were more conventional. Our appliances attended car fires and a house fire. This you would say is our bread and butter, but we still have to train hard in fire behaviour. We have to re qualify in breathing apparatus every two years to show we are still competent in a fire situation.
Our nights can be varied due to the deprived areas we work in. We see a massive increase in rubbish, cars and shed fires in the summer months. This particular tour we were required to attend several gain access situations for the ambulance service. This job used to come under the remit of the police, but the fire service are trialling taking this on and will more than likely continue with it. Along with co-responding with the ambulance service our medical skills need to be on a par with an emergency care assistant.
3am on our last morning we are called to a lady who has fallen into the water. This means us rigging in dry suits, personal flotation devices (PFD) and water rescue boots. Three FF’s are immediately available to enter the water whilst three more will be on our rescue boat. Thankfully all our jobs had positives resolutions this tour but it’s not always the case.
Water rescue is a massive subject for us to train for, water can be as unpredictable as a fire and fast flowing water can be as dangerous.
Calls to fires are down that cannot be denied, however at the start of the year London Fire brigade reported RTC’s were at a 5 year high. In the year April 15′ to March 16′ firefighters rescued more people than ever before, over 40,000.
The key here is that those 40,000 weren’t just rescued from fires. They were also rescued from RTC’s, lifts, chemical incidents, water, rescued from height and collapsed buildings.
A firefighters role map has grown, arguably now we are the most skilled that we have ever been and attending more wide ranging incidents than ever before.