I meet Sam, 4th year medical student and retained firefighter, on a dreary January afternoon, where already this year he and the West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service have dealt with road traffic accidents, chemical attacks, people getting stuck in rivers and a house fire caused by an overcooked gammon joint.
Retained firefighters are a fundamental part of the fire and rescue service, particularly in rural areas. There are around 18,000 retained firefighters in the UK, working on an on-call basis to provide efficient and reliable fire and rescue cover alongside full time firefighters. In addition to their heroic fire and rescue provision, the retained firefighters are also involved in community fire prevention initiatives such as giving talks to local schools and checking fire alarms.
Sam had a burning desire to become a retained firefighter after seeing a recruitment poster near his local fire station in Otley. He credits joining the retained firefighters with building his confidence particularly in emergency situations, and dealing with uncertainty, saying; “No matter how much you plan for something it’s never like how you think it’s going to be.” The numerous skills and experience he has gained will be extremely beneficial in his future career where he plans to specialise in either emergency or trauma medicine, or orthopedic surgery.
Sam is a real ambassador for both the medical school and the fire service and encourages anyone interested in making a difference or simply wanting some good fun should consider applying to be a retained firefighter. The application process involves an interview, basic numeracy and literacy tests and a physical fitness test. Retained firefighters must be over 18 but there is no upper age limit and there is a mixture of all ages, genders and backgrounds making up the team.
Jenny Bradshaw, Year 3 MBChB