Last week I was invited to the Passing Out parade of the newest recruits to Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service. Five new retained fire fighters completed their training at the Severn Park Fire and Rescue Training Centre, four of which are now stationed around Gloucestershire, to protect us in our time of need! In an environment where Health and Safety is paramount, it is not easy to find people who are willing to put it all on the line for other, probably people they don’t know. If that’s not setting yourself up to be a hero, I don’t know what is!
The evening started off with introductions from the centre staff giving an overview of why we were there, highlighting the work that goes into training the recruits and what the centre is capable of. We then met the training staff and they gave us an overview of the course, and their insights on how the recruits developed. I was there with Cllr Will Windsor-Clive who is the Cabinet Portfolio Holder that I shadow.
A quick slide show, set to music, showed the recruits in action and some very cool photos set against burning buildings gave more of a flavour of their experiences. Chief Fire Officer, Jon Hall (or “The Chief”) addressed the audience, consisting mainly of mums and dads, girlfriends, wives and children of the recruits. In thanking them for their support, he also highlighted just how their lives would all be affected by the choice the recruits made to be fire fighters and how their support was critical to the success of the fire service as a whole. He said that the recruits were now potential Heroes, but being a hero wasn’t just about diving in without thinking. The true hero does very heroic acts, but under the knowledge of doing the right thing by himself and his team. It sounds obvious, but when the adrenaline starts running in life and death situations, it’s the self-control and ability to think that is just as important as being able to physically fight fires. The recruits were then awarded with their certificates and the proud relatives were then invited for photos.
The evening culminated in a demonstration of the skills the recruits had learned. They showed us their ability to fight a building fire and rescue the “damsel in distress”. The sense of achievement from the recruits and the proudness of the relatives was almost palpable.
The majority of our fire service is manned by retained fire fighters, those members of our community who are willing to put themselves on the line, alongside their day job and other commitments, to, in essence, save us from ourselves. It was seeing the recruits and their relatives, as well as the staff who were there and would be taking on these new fire fighters in their teams (watches) that really brought it home to me just how much we take a good service for granted as its something we hope we will never need to use.