After our tour of a Canadian Fire Hall, we had a few questions. As luck would have it, a firefighter with the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) soon joined my camera club and he kindly agreed to answer some of our questions. We ended up with so many that it’s turned into more of an interview! So let me introduce you to Graham Ross, of the Whitehead Fire Station.
Why did you decide to become a member of the NIFRS? I decided to become a firefighter mainly to help keep my local community safe
How long have you been a Firefighter? I’ve been a Firefighter for 7 years now
Is it paid or volunteer position? I’m a Retained Firefighter. To be retained means I am on a small retaining fee and when I’m called out I receive a call out fee of about £13.
How long does the training take to become a Firefighter with the NIFRS? Initial training to make u “safe to ride” the machine is 6 m0nths. Then there are 3 of years probation. But training is continuous as there are always new dangers we face.
Where is the training completed? The training is is completed at the training school in Belfast and at the station in Whitehead.
Do members-either full time or volunteers have to keep to a certain physical level to stay employed? Yes, we are tested twice a year to meet a certain level of fitness and if we drop below it we are “off the run”. This means we can’t ride the truck until it improves to above the level again.
What would a typical day’s schedule be like for a member of the WHFD? A Typical day is like anyone else’s because we work regular jobs until our fire alerter goes off. This can happen at any time day or night. Then we rush to the station and then to the fire or rescue. Tuesday is slightly different as it’s our training night at the station.
Are you strictly with Whitehead or do you/can you move around to other stations? No, the way it works we have to live within 5 minutes of the station and preferably work 5 mins away too.
Does the NIFRS have a mascot? Not now. They did when I was younger called Welly the Elephant.
Why are fire trucks different colours in different countries? The colour is usually down to preference of the country or tradition, I’ve seen yellow white and even green!
How often should you check your smoke alarms? The saying is “Thumbs up on Monday!” Install CO detectors have your gas checked yearly by a qualified company.
Other than fires, Tristan would like to know what are the other types of rescues do you do? Apart from fires we also attend incidents like road traffic collisions (RTC’s) flooding events, large animal rescues, and gas leaks to name a few.
Do you have a particular job to do when attending a call? I am a crew commander so as well as the normal duties such as rescue and firefighting I could find myself in leadership roles commanding teams or sectors on the fire ground.
How many times a month would you be called out on average? The call out ratio differs at different times of year. We would be busy during the hot summer months and also this time of the year when people decide to light their fires for the first time and all the old soot and debris can catch fire in the chimney. In Whitehead we are a small station and get around 120-150 calls in a year. The numbers are dropping due to initiatives like the home fire safety check where we come out ask some questions and install smoke alarms.
What are some fire hazards? Gas stoves, pot handles pointed over the edge of the stove, barbecues, hot beverages. Cigarettes and playing with matches! Candles have taken over as the main cause of house fire from cigarettes.
Do you still teach Stop, drop and roll? Yes, its the best way 🙂
Is there anything else that we should know? Know your escape routes. Teach kids not to hide in the event of a fire. Teach them to close the door and put a towel at the bottom of the door to stop smoke! Close all interior doors at night. An average door will take 20 mins to burn through, giving you extra time. Know where your house keys are at all times if you need them to open your exterior doors. Make sure your kids know the number to call in an emergency. (999 in the UK 911 in North America, and 112 in Europe)
What other activities other than fire and rescue do you participate in? We’ve seen the crews out during the Whitehead Festival raft races, delivering Christmas gifts to children with the fire engines, and doing talks at schools. A lot of activities we do are all about fire prevention like giving talks on common causes of fires and installing smoke alarms. We also do charity events like cycling, runnings or car washing .
Graham kindly said “Anything else feel free to ask ” which may come back to haunt him because Tristan is trying his best to come up with more questions for him! Here is Tristan meeting Fireman Graham at the station last night when it was open to the public for Fire Safety Week. Tristan had a really great time and I’m sure he’ll be talking about it for ages!