I took part in Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service's 'Have a Go day' - Here's what happened
Participants had to deploy firehouses and drag a human dummy to see if they are cut out for the job
Our reporter was invited to take part in a Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service 'have a go day'. Here's what happened:
The day began promisingly enough, with a freezing cold start at 9am. The sky stood grey above me, icy mist hung low on the ground and a human-shaped dummy lay forebodingly besides a great big fire engine.
As I waited to begin, I watched serving firefighters practice the removal of a casualty from a road traffic collision (RTC). In this case, the 'casualty' was a sketch drawn out on a window.
Each of the crews train regularly when they are not out responding to incidents, keeping their skills and speed up to snuff.
In this example, it was explained to me that the entire roof of the vehicle had to be cut away to remove the casualty safely. To do this, the firefighters had to first roll the other car out of the way.
They then stabilized the wreck and applied a sticky, cling film-like material called collision wrap to each car window. If the glass was to shatter, then the sticky wrap would keep it together, instead of bursting out and posing a hazard to those around it.
Next came the roof removal, for which an immense pair of what looked like motorised scissors were used.
The crew clipped each pillar holding the roof up one by one, leaving the one beside the 'casualty' for last. Once removed, the injured party would be pulled out safely from the wreck, then whisked away to hospital
The watch manager, Aidan Phillips, explained that firefighters have to watch for any potential danger while dealing with an incident. They check whether the car lights are on or off, if there is fuel leaking, if there is danger to people or animals outside of the cordon they put up, if the cordon itself is secure. The list is long and exhaustive, and they check it every time.
Then it was my turn...
To see if potential recruits have the strength and wherewithal to make it in the service, the 'have a go day' involved essential skills, like lifting heavy weight, navigating the use of hoses and hanging off of ladders.
We began with a simple ladder exercise, where I created what's called a leg lock on the metal rungs. It lets the person lean back off the ladder, using only their legs to keep them in place. This frees up their hands for all that firefighting they do.
For me, the adventure stopped about four feet off the ground. The proper test is done at many times that height.
Then we moved on to the hoses, the first tool many of us think of. Firefighters may have to deploy them and put them back at a moment's notice, so speed was the key.
I was asked to roll out the house, moving my hands in what was referred to as an 'egg shape' motion. While it sounded strange, once things got going it was like the hose unspooled itself. I then rolled it back up as quickly as I could, ready for next time.
Then the exercise ended with my foreboding friend, the dummy. He weighs 50 kilograms and does nothing but lie about the place. So I had to move him by hooking my arms under his, interlocking my fingers and then began the dragging.
It was surprisingly tough, and I could only imagine what it would be like if it were a real person.
With one final sprint back I finished my time with Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service, feeling out of breath but ultimately energised. It would certainly be a challenging job that I, and no doubt many others, can't help but respect.
Anyone interested in joining the fire service should visit their website. The closing date for applications is 5th December.