On-call firefighter Jamie Taylor
When Jamie Taylor decided he wanted a new challenge, he never expected to feel such a huge sense of pride or that his two young sons would think of their daddy as a superhero; an on-call firefighter who helps save lives.
Jamie's telling his story as Kent Fire and Rescue Service (KFRS) opens up its application process for local people to become on-call firefighters at Edenbridge fire station.
The father of two explains: “There’s so many positives about being an on-call firefighter. It’s great knowing that you’re doing something useful for your local community. I also love the fact that my children think of me not just as their daddy but I’m also this positive role model for them.”
32 year-old Jamie works full time as a builder and carpenter in and around Edenbridge but manages to successfully combine this with his role as an on-call firefighter for the town and still spend family time with his wife and children. He works from 7am till around 5pm most days and then provides cover through the night and every other weekend for KFRS.
Talking about how this works for his family Jamie said: “I’m usually sat at home with the family in the evening and wouldn’t really be doing much else, so I carry my alerter with me and if it goes off, I have to get to the fire station within five minutes. I can still go to the local shops, or kick the football around the park with the boys or go for a meal with the family in Edenbridge. It works really well and doesn’t restrict me at all with my everyday life. The extra money I earn as an on-call firefighter also comes in handy with a growing family.”
Initially Jamie had concerns about applying due to the studying required as he has dyslexia. He was worried that he might not be able to cope. “I needn’t have worried, everyone at KFRS has been so helpful, accommodating and encouraging. Simple things like rephrasing questions to help me understand, really put me at ease. I feel no different to anyone else.”
During his training Jamie was delighted to learn that he'd achieved scores in the high 90’s and passed with flying colours, he said: “It was like a dream come true, incredibly rewarding and such a huge confidence boost.” His advice to others in a similar situation is “Don’t be put off, go for it, you won’t be disappointed.”
Edenbridge fire station is one of 12 on-call stations looking to recruit women and men for daytime, evening and weekend cover. On-call firefighters are not based at the fire station but respond when they are needed. They also have to take part in training and drill nights. To apply you must be at least 18 years old but there is no upper age limit so long as you live or work within five minutes of the fire station, are physically fit and can be available when KFRS needs you.
There is a misconception that you have to be super fit to be a firefighter but Jamie explains that his day job is very active, constantly walking around a building site, carrying heavy equipment so apart from that and running around with the children, he doesn’t go to the gym or do any other physical activity to maintain his fitness.
Jamie has worked for KFRS for two and a half years and says the best thing about being an on-call firefighter is the everyday challenge of not knowing what to expect next. “I love everything about the job and it’s exactly what I expected. We’re not continually rushing out the doors cutting people out of car crashes, putting out fires and saving lives but when you do attend an incident, you walk away feeling good for the part you've played, the impact you’ve had on your community and the people involved.”
One of the incidents that sticks in Jamie’s mind was a pub fire in Edenbridge, where the crews battled hard for several hours fighting the blaze and successfully limiting the damage to the top half of the property.
Jamie added: “We were able to save the whole downstairs including the bar and restaurant area of the pub. You know the fire is affecting that family’s livelihood, their home, everything they are and have worked for. Knowing you’re doing everything you can to help them get back on their feet and into business as soon as possible, means so much to me.
“Similarly when we go to a car crash, it’s not just the person trapped inside who is going to be suffering but everyone around them, their family and friends. Knowing you’ve helped and made a difference to their lives is such a sense of achievement, there’s nothing quite like it.
“You get such a sense of pride doing this job. You don’t do it for the praise, thanks or the money but to help people when they need it the most. It also teaches you a whole new set of skills like first aid, which came in very handy on the building site recently when someone cut their hand quite badly with a Stanley knife. I’m now a qualified first aider thanks to KFRS and I was able to deal with the injury.
“There’s so much more to it than putting out fires. So if you want a challenge in life and have some time available, come along to our drill night on a Monday evening, have a chat and find out more. It’s so worth it!”