Thursday, June 26, 2008

London Fire Brigade Part 1 1978 - 1982
People often ask me about my time in the London Fire Brigade, as though it might be as interesting as say the life of Gorden Ramsay or Robert Mugabe, well I probably don't quite measure up to the stories that these people could tell but I will give it a go.
So my life in the London Fire Brigade, the shortened version.

I joined the London Fire Brigade in February of 1978 having spent the previous 12 months as a Lifeguard and Swimming Instructor. Basic training lasted 16 weeks in this time you spent your time learning procedure and how to use the basic equipment of fire fighters and the theory of firefighting. Fitness also played a big part and as you proceed through the training a number of individuals would decide that the fire service was not for them.
Training was very much in the style of military training, Some people could not get on with this system of training, or found that they suffered from claustrophobia, or could not stand heights or were simply not fit enough, so from an original training group of 16 by week 3 we were down to 12.
At the end of our time at Southwark training center we all believed we were it, rough tough firefighters ready to take on the world and most of all as proud as f***.
We were posted to our various stations all across London, in my case Hendon in north London then amongst the experienced people you work alongside at the fire station you realise that you ain't so rough nor tough and you now have to learn the art of firefighting. Fires can be hot frightening places to be, but you don't think to much about this when you join.
The tv pictures that you see of firefighters surrounding a burning building with hoses aimed at the building, spraying water are the ones you see the most in the media, because these are the pictures that the media can get easy access to, the majority of fires are fought from inside the burning building and not outside, you see buildings are designed to keep water out, so you have got to get in their, perhaps this ain't the glamorous job that I thought it was going to be after all...god I could be injured doing this stuff.

In my first year at Hendon I attended many incidents however my first major fire was a warehouse in St Pancras Way in central London in October of 1978 attended by 35 pumping appliances, the fire burnt for days and unfortunately cost the life of one firefighter when a high wall collapsed, with several others being injured, a sad time for the London Fire Brigade.

It was four years I spent at station learning the art of firefighting, it was tough and a steep learning curve to follow but I enjoyed every minute of it. After the four years I had to demonstrate to a senior officer that I had learnt all that was required to be able to call myself a qualified firefighter. I am pleased to inform you that I passed with flying colours, so could now call myself a proper firefighter.
Part 2 to follow.

Photo courtesy of Paul Wood.

"Well, if crime fighters fight crime and fire fighters fight fire, what do freedom fighters fight" George Carling.

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