Wednesday, August 1, 2012

2 Things I Have Learned From A Rookie Firefighter


Aerial view of the boarding school
Seventeen years ago this week, when we lived in a house in a boarding school by the River Thames in rural Oxfordshire, England, we had a fire in our bedroom.

We had just returned from London late on a July Saturday night. It was an unusually hot weekend by British standards. No houses had air conditioning and ours was no exception. The air was still and humid.
Our bedroom was like a furnace, due to glass windows from floor to ceiling which showed the lush gardens we faced but also together with the flat roof, trapped a huge amount of heat. To combat this seasonal problem we had a standing fan on the floor in front of our bed. That evening the thermometer registered the house at 95F. As soon as I went upstairs I settled Aron, then just 3 months old, in his crib in his room and switched on the fan in ours. A few minutes later I returned to see a large blue flame flickering ominously from the back of the fan. I closed the bedroom door on it, ran to retrieve Aron and scrambled back out of the house as Jonny called 999. (UK’s emergency number.)

With grateful thanks to the local village firefighters who were there within minutes, only our bedroom was seriously damaged, mainly from smoke from the fan head falling onto our bedding. In all the kerfuffle, after the firefighters had put out the fire, dousing everything in the room and then tossing each item out the windows into the gorgeous rose gardens below, they went back and searched for our precious irreplaceable belongings. They brought out our wedding photographs, that were barely damaged and one of the boy’s soft toys-an elephant. Everything else in the room,from floor to ceiling  was blackened from soot and unusable.

As we have listened to Aron now 17, talk about his experiences over his five weeks of firefighter training, there are two attributes that have been re enforced during training that have struck me most. 


The first is that he knows he is a vital part of a team that takes care of its members. Each firefighter is responsible for the others. Each firefighter relies on the other to check he is safe, his equipment and oxygen levels are correct and he is accounted for. They understand that if one of their team’s safety is compromised, all of them are in danger. This rule is drummed into them from the first hour of training.

The second is empathy. Time has been spent understanding the impact of a fire on its victims, the possible loss of life, possessions, a home and all that entails. They have been trained in the important  retrieval of priceless objects for families after the fire is out-the wedding photos, favorite soft toys, family heirlooms. They have been taught to understand that when homes are burned, family history is destroyed and that anything that can safely be saved should be. Firefighting goes well beyond putting out the fire and rescuing victims. It is also about the psychological impact that fire will have and how these first responders behave at the time can have a long lasting impact on their own team and the victims' recovery from the traumatic experience.

Aron, with his graduating class, is in the middle row second from left
We will never forget the team work and empathy of the firefighters who took care of us 17 years ago and now our rookie fire fighter son is paying their skills and kindness forward………Good luck Aron, we are very proud of you.


Have a safe week


Gilly





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8 comments:

  1. Very interesting. You hope that the firemen will be sensitive in the ways you describe but it didn't occur to me that it's actually a part of the training. And 'good on yer' to Aaron!

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    1. I agree Rachel. I really was impressed that these messages were so clearly spelled out and had equal weight with the physical skills they were learning. Aron's next plan is to train to be a lifeguard!!
      Gillyx

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  2. I so remember that fire!
    Wonderful to see you and your rookie - how can he carry all that gear?!

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    1. Sukey,it was pretty scary at the time. I have no idea how he carries all that gear, let alone climbs ladders with it .He certainly developed muscles he didn't know he had and he didn't feel stiff or ache! oh to be young again!
      great to see you and your girls!
      Gillyx

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  3. Everyone who knows you, your family, and especially Aron, is beaming with pride with you, Gills!

    Remember how he LOVED trucks???

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    1. Arozora? -you have written such a lovely comment ,but I'm not sure who you are.- Thank you yes The boy's done good! He always loved trucks, you are right ,particularly fire trucks and ambulances. Really he's been very consistent since he was 3 years old. How many people get to live out their passions??
      Gilly

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  4. These kind of post are always inspiring and I prefer to read quality content so I happy to find many good point here in the post, writing is simply great, thank you for the post valentines teddy bear

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  5. You are welcome.Many thanks for the feedback. Gilly

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