We call them firefighters but their job goes way beyond fighting fires.
And as West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service welcome new trainees and looks to launch a new recruitment drive we take a look at how varied the role is.
This weekend, January 13 and 14, there will be an open event for budding firefighters at Huddersfield Fire Station, with a further event at Dewsbury Fire Station on January 20/21, which can be booked via www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/huddersfield-fire-station-awareness-day-tickets-40942427904
To see how varied the role is, I joined the Water Rescue team at Rastrick Fire Station and the Technical Rescue team at Cleckheaton Fire Station to learn more about the rescue side of the job.
Crew manager Tony Rostron, of White Watch at Rastrick, and his colleague Shaun Gibson demonstrated their water rescue skills with Chris McCabe, the crew commander from Birkenshaw who was willing to dive into the cold water for them to practice pulling people out.
“We train once a month, it’s important to keep practising and honing our skills for when we need them,” he said.
I too volunteered to dive in to be rescued. I shouted and waved for help. The teams can deploy their boats quickly and with a top speed of 22mph they reached me in no time.
The 2015 Boxing Day flooding brought WYFRS’s water rescue efforts to the public’s attention, and more recently they’ve been involved in rescuing a person from the canal in Brighouse.
CM Rostron said: “We rescue people stuck in water, we have a boat for wide area flooding. We had a lot over a year ago and this boat was used to rescue people out of houses and people who were in distress.
“We do rescue people out of fast-flowing and swift water and we have been called to animals in distress and we’ll get them out too.”
For the team at Cleckheaton they have to demonstrate some aerial skills – abseiling, something out of my comfort zone so I watched firmly from the ground.
They were simulating a rescue of a casualty who had fallen off a viaduct onto scaffolding below.
They set up a two-line system, sent firefighter Nick Ward over the top to abseil down. He assessed medical need then moved the casualty (a dummy) onto a stretcher for it to be sent to the ground.
Watch Commander Darren Haley, of Cleckheaton’s White Watch technical rescue team, said: “The types of jobs we use this rescue technique with is people who have fallen down quarries or hills, people in work scenarios and sometimes animals trapped and the only way we can access them and safely get them away is with ropes.”
Like the water team, they do a day’s training every month and go out into the community so the training is realistic.
It can’t always be realistic though – WYFRS has a life-size rubber horse to practice animal rescues.
Mr Haley said: “We go to as many incidents of other natures as we do fires so we have to train for every possible scenario, whether it’s road traffic collisions, rope rescues, animal rescues or chemical incidents, plus the prevention side because if we can prevent a fire or rescue incident happening the better for it.”
So is the job of a firefighter at WYFRS for you?
Chris Lawton, assistant district commander for Kirklees, hopes people will give it a go.
The brigade is recruiting for the first time in over a decade, with the first trainees starting their training this week and more to come.
Chris said: “We’re looking for enthusiastic people willing to learn the skills needed, get involved in our communities and give something back.
“Yes people have to by physically fit but being a firefighter is more than that.
“We want to attract more women and people from diverse communities who may have previously thought the job wasn’t for them – but I believe it is. We encourage people to find out more and have a go.”
WC Haley added: “Being a firefighter is a very different kind of job, yes there is the responsive side to the operational incidents we’re called to, but the prevention side is as important.
“We haven’t recruited for a long time, so really the people coming in now will bring in skills we need to know about.
“When I did my training in 2001 there were 35 in my course and only four women. They passed just as the rest of us did.
“The organisation knows that to be a firefighter you don’t need to be a 6ft bloke, we’re more than that.
“If you like variety then every day is different. You meet some great people, it’s an exciting job.”
So what else should you prepare for?
WYFRS is re-launching their home fire checks to Safe and Well Visits.
Firefighters go into people’s homes to offer fire prevention advice, carry out smoke detector checks and help plan an escape route, but it will go beyond that to include smoking cessation, crime prevention, working with housing partners on cold homes, and advising on hoarding, trip and fall risks.
What do we the wider public need to know?
I asked the team what the one thing we can all do to help ourselves is and the reply in unison was: have a working smoke detector.
Chris Lawson added: “The people who don’t have them are typically the people who need them most, they may live high-risk lives, be a smoker or they may live alone.
“There has been some positive changes as landlords now have a legal duty to make sure smoke detectors are fitted in rental properties and we welcome that.”
Also, plan your escape as Mr Haley explained: “People need to have a fire escape plan. At work or in schools people know there will be a fire drill, they know what to do. But many people don’t transfer that to their homes.
“Where do you leave your keys at night? Do you close doors which would stop a fire spreading? Do you leave shoes or bags on the stairs that would be a trip hazard if you’re trying to escape a fire?
“These are all things people need to consider.
“We go into schools and give them advice in the hope they take it back into their own homes.”