Becoming an on-call firefighter at 18: Harry's story
With one week left until he takes his final assessment, new recruit Harry Clack is almost ready to start attending incidents with Maldon Fire Station as one of Essex County Fire and Rescue Service's youngest on-call firefighters.
"I visited Maldon Fire station when I was seven years old for a birthday party," said Harry. "I didn’t even know what an on-call firefighter was back then - I just assumed people were in the station all the time."
By day Harry is an apprentice in a support role at the Service's headquarters in Kelvedon, but to understand his operational colleague’s demands he decided to train to be an on-call firefighter.
"I’m also a passionate young motorcyclist, so part of a group that forms one of the main risk groups on Essex roads, so I wanted to be on call not only to give something back to a public service but be ready to help someone like me."
To be accepted as a recruit Harry needed to pass an initial fitness test, something that can be off-putting to some, but with the right training can be passed by most people.
"I’m naturally fit anyway so I didn't find it that hard. The ladder part; where we had to wear the safe working at height kit and climb the ladder, was the strangest as it’s something different to your standard fitness routine and everyday life, but I also found it quite exciting."
Just like all new on-call firefighter recruits, Harry then spent two full weeks training at ECFRS's Service Training Centres followed by a further evening session for 10 weeks.
"The training covers everything from ladders and hoses to road traffic collisions, everyone on your squad is new like you and the instructors are brilliant throughout."
In addition to the weekly session at Service Training Centre, new recruits begin attending their local station's drill night, something they'll be expected to do throughout their career in order to keep their training and knowledge current.
"I'm quite new compared to others at my station and because things change over time we’re expected to bring our latest training back to the station, like a relay system. It means we're all constantly learning from each other as a team.”
Harry’s final assessment takes place next week and once he passes that he can start to attend 999 calls and begin his next step in becoming a fully competent firefighter - something that can take up to two years to complete when you’re on-call.
"Knowing what on-call is and the fact people do it alongside their primary employment makes you value them even more - you think, actually they have a normal life and they don’t have to do it but they choose to.
"It’s a really great feeling to know I’ll be supporting the local community that I grew up in and helping to make Essex a safe place to live, work and travel."
Want to be an on-call firefighter? If you're aged 18 or over, live or work within 5 minutes of an on-call fire station and are physically fit you could be paid to protect your local community. For more information visit join.essex-fire.gov.uk