The role of a modern day firefighter has transformed dramatically since the old days of cork helmets and plastic leggings, and the changes go far beyond the vast improvements in protective fire kit.
With developing environments, enhanced technologies and growing communities, come new risks and challenges, and therefore Kent Fire and Rescue Service (KFRS) is always evolving, to continue to keep people safe.
While firefighters today still attend fires as the key part of their role, they’re now equipped with specialist kit and knowledge to tackle a wider, and growing range of different incidents, including road crashes, water and animal rescues, rescues from height, and incidents involving chemicals and hazardous materials.
There is however, another vital part of being a 21st century firefighter with KFRS – customer care and engagement, and providing those in need with support and compassion which extends past the incident ground.
Someone who knows first-hand how much the role has developed, is KFRS’ Area Manager for Operational Response, Mani Cook, who became a firefighter 27 years ago.
“It’s a different world for our firefighters now” Mani said. “We used to be fire brigade and now we’re a fire and rescue service, so the clue is in the title that we’re attending a whole range of different incidents and we’ve developed new specialist skills over the years.
“There’s a lot more engagement with members of the public and working with partner agencies. It’s about understanding the needs of our customers, making sure they’re safe and ensuring they have a good service from us.
“The job of a firefighter has changed, but the people, the passion and the pride that our crews have, has certainly not gone anywhere.”
Having worked her way up to area manager, Mani is now responsible for overseeing all of Kent’s firefighters, and manages operational response across the county to ensure KFRS is always ready to respond effectively.
Mani continued: “A good firefighter is somebody who leaves a positive reaction with every interaction they have. On the worst day of somebody’s life, they turn up, talk to the person, help them, calm them down and have a positive impact.
“You have to be committed, innovative, be able to think on your feet, and need to want to provide a high level of customer service with compassion.
“The best piece of advice I’d give a firefighter today is to never stop learning. Keep an open mind and know you’re going to need to adapt, as things don’t stand still for long - embrace it.”
KFRS is now recruiting for on-call firefighters across the county. To be the first to find out when new vacancies go live, sign up for email alerts.
Please note, some of the footage included in the video was filmed prior to Covid-19 restrictions.