Firefighter interrupted: a typical day (Diary of a Firefighter)

Submitted by AWL on 2 November, 2021 - 9:51 Author: Adrian Noble

Our days follow the same underlying structure. Arrive, tea, roll call, assignment of daily duties. Test breathing apparatus set, complete inventory checks and routine equipment tests. Breakfast. Drills, training, “stand easy” (lunch). Tea. External duties: hydrant tests, community outreach events, fitting smoke alarms, visiting local risks, inspecting the waking watches of cladded buildings. Tea. Dinner, tea, wait for change of watch, home.

Of course, it’s rarely that simple. Today was busy, but not unusually so in terms of numbers of shouts (although wearing BA [Breathing Apparatus] is not an everyday occurrence by any stretch). Sometimes you’re so busy that it feels like the emergencies are getting in the way of your work, rather than the point of the routine stuff being to ensure your effectiveness at emergencies. Whether drilling with the 135 ladder or about to have that first bite of lasagne, when the bells go down, it goes out the window.

9:40AM: person threatening suicide behind locked door. A patient at a nearby mental health facility has locked herself in her room and her doctors have called us to help them gain entry. We discuss options: breaking the door window to access the internal handle is easiest, but she could use the glass to harm herself before we can stop her. Entry via brute force could escalate the situation.

After discussing the risks with the doctors, we use a forced entry tool to ease the door from the frame and pop the lock. We head back to complete inventories.

10:42AM: flooding. Water is dripping from an upstairs flat into the one below through a light fitting. We find the leak, turn off the flat’s water supply and isolate the downstairs flat’s electrics.

11:56AM: automatic fire alarm (AFA). An alarm has gone off in a nearby supermarket. We find the actuated detector head, search the area using a thermal imaging camera, no sign of smoke or fire. We silence and reset the alarm panel.

12:42PM: person locked in a bathroom. We slip the lock and remove the mechanism from the door frame to stop it re-locking someone in.

12:55PM: on the way back to station, another AFA, this time in a large high rise. Lunch when we get back, inhaling it out of fear of not getting through it before being called out again.

1:34PM: another AFA (spot the trend) at a high rise. LFB [London Fire Brigade] mobilise five fire engines, a fire and rescue unit and an arial appliance to every high rise AFA, so we go to a lot of them. We check in on the waking watches of two cladded buildings and start testing hydrants before being interrupted.

2:56PM: fire, in a high rise around the corner from the station. It’s clear on arrival that we’ve got something. I’m down to wear BA today so my partner and I rig, taking a high rise firefighting grab bag and lengths of hose in, establishing a bridgehead two floors below the fire floor. We get under air, book into entry control and set into the dry riser one floor up, the driver having charged the riser from the appliance.

It’s a small kitchen fire which we put out, thoroughly searching the flat for casualties and ventilating the property. Once the incident is wrapped up, we are detained for a couple of hours assisting a fire investigation officer. Back at station, we change our contaminated PPE and clean and service our BA sets so we can go back on the run. We’re hungry, but dinner prep was heavily delayed, so it will be a late one.

7:00PM: AFA in a high rise several miles away — the crew first on scene send a false alarm stop message to control and turn us back before we arrive. As we turn onto our road:

7:22PM: fire, a garden shed in a neighbouring ground. Once we arrive the local crews have already got it under control and said we’re not needed, so we head back to station. On the back of the truck, the three of us sit in silence and look straight ahead, partly from hunger, partly from tiredness, but mostly a superstitious unwillingness to break the spell, all thinking the same thing, hoping against hope that we can get back to station for dinner undisturbed by further calls to mobilise.

The gods of LFB Control smile on us — we eat, and the next time we hear the PA system’s voice, it’s to announce change of watch.

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