Iain Robertson, Manager and Station Watch Commander, Winchcombe Fire and Rescue, managed to fit in a chat to our new Winchcombe U3A monthly meeting in August – in his very busy schedule!
So, I thought, this is one of the people who look after us. The people who run towards when most of us will aim to run away from some of the terrible things we see in the news.
The Winchcombe Area U3A members were ready to learn more from Iain , Incident Commander in Winchcombe.
(As ever, there were loads of particular sayings and acronyms that all professions have. If you attended, you may notice that I have mis-noted some. Iain, if so, I apologise…)
“We risk our lives to save save-able lives and save-able property”.
OK – our attention was most certainly grabbed. We wanted to know more. Why add “rescue” to the title? Part time firefighters? So, just volunteers, and amateur? I wasn’t brave enough to ask these as questions, you understand, but I think similar thoughts might have passed through the minds of other audience members.
It used to be The Fire Brigade. Remit is now much wider. Fire calls have dropped 63% in 5 years. Road traffic accidents continue to increase. Flooding rescues and fixing still continue to escalate.
Nowadays, the Retained Duty system Firefighters tend to be more rounded in their skill sets. They have to do the firefighting, of course, but there are presentation skill needs, social work style inputs at safe and well visits to the vulnerable and socially isolated, defibrillator use, and more. There seems to be much more emphasis on prevention and protection as in fixing an incident.
The trainees have exactly the same training as full time fire fighters. 3 to 4 years. Then exams. Practical stuff after that, like use of breathing equipment, how fires develop, and a full day long assessment. And they have a day job too.
I was most taken by Iain also talking about the effects on family life. They have to be 5 minutes from the station, sober, and ready to leave whatever they are doing as soon as their bleep goes off. It’s the effect on family life that seems too intense for many, I would think. 120 hours a week on call? Wow. Just so surprising.
Other facts that fascinated:
- 1800 litres of water are weighing down that truck. It will be used in 2 minutes. 2 MINUTES! Other sources from geysers to known rivers and ponds are built into local contingency planning.
- The firefighters have to have periodic fitness tests and pass a minimum level of strength test.
- The most common cause of damage and death in a fire are fire gasses, not burns
- The truck is ready to roll in 3 minutes from a call out
- It needs a minimum of 4 crew, and one has to be qualified (so Iain can be last all the time!)
Advice to us all? It is no trouble to be called out. “The second you think you needs us….call”. And as a family, have a fire plan. And it’s better if you can, to just get out.
The safe and well visits, plans for the vulnerable, prevention and protection all seem to be bearing fruit. I suspect it is just far more logical, but with much less adrenalin! They have partnerships with GP surgery, day care centres and food banks. There is a sensitive amount of social awareness here, and it feels like it is working well.
I’m glad they do the running towards, on our behalf. And although currently all 11 are male, 3 of recent applicants were female. Winchcombe Welcomes walkers, and fire women!
(Iain had to rush off after questions to do a safe and well visit. After much applause).