We are like a small family: Life as an on-call firefighter in Leaden Roding
"When I was young, I used to live directly opposite Leaden Roding Fire Station," Chris Ward said. "I used to always look at it and think, 'one day I want to be a firefighter’ - and I’m really proud to say that I am now."
Chris became an on-call firefighter at Leaden Roding four years ago. While he has since moved slightly further away from the station, he can still reach it within the required five minutes whenever his pager sounds - a feeling he says is like no other.
"Even after those years, when my pager goes off I still get that adrenaline rush... you can’t get that feeling anywhere else and it’s never changed.
"When I hear that sound I know I’m going to something that’s potentially serious to help people in need."
In his day job, Chris works as an Engineer at Stansted Airport fixing various equipment and vehicles throughout the premises to keep one of the nation’s busiest runways moving.
Working 12 hour shifts for three days at a time, Chris balances his firefighter life by making himself available and on-call whenever he is at home or in the area.
“Whenever I have spare time I make myself available to offer cover. There’s genuinely such a good atmosphere here that I don’t see it as a bad thing being on-call or even on the station.
"We’re like a small family here - we’re all best mates. That’s the same right across the Service: even if you don’t know another firefighter you’re working with, you still get on with them - everyone wants to help each other.”
As part of a rural and close-knit community, Chris and his crew mates are often called to incidents in their local area. Naturally, that means the incidents involve their friends or people they know - something that motivates Chris to help even more.
“Because of the country roads around where we are, we get called to a lot of road traffic collisions, where people have driven too quickly or irresponsibly.
“Not long ago, we went to a collision involving someone who we all knew. In the end, it wasn’t too serious - she broke her collarbone - but I think she was reassured by the fact that we were all there to calm her down.
“Imagine if you were involved in a car accident and your mates turned up to cut the car apart and help you out - you’d be much more assured and feel calmer.
“I would much rather be there and able to help the people I know than just hear about what happened later on and wish I could have - that’s what being an on-call firefighter is all about.”
As a car enthusiast, Chris has also enjoyed learning about various vehicles he’s come across in his role as a firefighter - including how to safely release people who may be trapped in them.
“I’m really interested in cars, so learning about how they’re built and reinforced and then using our equipment to help people get out safely was something I found really rewarding.
“I also really enjoyed learning about the medical side. Not long ago, I did my First Person on Scene course (known as FPOS) - which teaches you about different parts of the body, how they work and how to help people suffering from things like major bleeding and burns.
“I think they're skills everyone should learn - its basic life support and could quite literally make all the difference in a difficult situation.”
Essex County Fire and Rescue Service is currently recruiting on-call firefighters at Leaden Roding. If you live or work within five minutes of the Fire Station (on Dunmow Road), are over 18 and physically fit, we want you!
If you’d like to help Chris and the Leaden Roding crew protect your local community, why not apply? Head to join.essex-fire.gov.uk/on-call/leaden-roding for more information.