My first fire call-out

By Captain of Fire, Fadheela R (Year 13 student)

I’m in my biology lesson trying to get my head around homeostasis when I’m aware of a loud buzzing noise. I’m wondering what it is, then suddenly I realise it’s my fire service pager! We have a call out! “Sir”, I say, “My pager is going off. I need to go.” I run out of the class and as I reach Round Square I meet the other members of the watch on call who are also running to the Fire Station. I feel a mixture of excitement and nervousness as this is the school’s first call out since the COVID rules allowed it to participate again. But for us this is our first call out ever.

At the Fire Station we hurriedly get our fire gear on (also known as PPE). There are two personnel in the watch room, Olivia C and Struan L, who send messages out to the boarding houses to inform them of our whereabouts. They stay in the watch room throughout the first few hours of the call out to ensure everything is going smoothly.

The incident is a fire at Old Mill in Elgin; we are called out to dampen down the residue of the fire which happened the day before, and which Elgin Fire Service is worried will reignite. Our objective is to dampen the smouldering embers. When we get there the fire from the day before has completely burned the roof down so it is on the floor. Two appliances from Elgin are already there. We take over the role of the second appliance; it refills the first appliance, which has hoses running to the building. Our presence at the fire scene frees up the firefighters so they can be available for other live fires elsewhere. There are five of us on the call out, Misha L, Timothy G, Joe P, Fergus H, and me as well as Mr Clarke who is a volunteer firefighter in our unit and who drives the appliance.

The local firefighters are keen to get us fully involved in the operation. They explain the situation to us and the roles that we will take. They put two of us onto the hoses dampening the fire, another on the main pump and reversing the appliance to the nearby hydrant, where they station the other two crew members. Initially I am on the hose dampening down the fire through one of the windows. Then I switch with the person on the pump where I empty our tank into theirs using our main pump and a hose length. Once their tank is full I signal to the driver so he can reverse backwards safely down the rather long lane. Then I switch with Joe and take over from him at the hydrant. We refill their tank several times and hose down the fire until it is considered safe and then we knock off and make up, which is the term we use in fire for packing up.

I feel we worked extremely well as a team with the Elgin fire fighters and everyone took it very seriously and behaved professionally. This call-out was a good way to ease the Gordonstoun volunteer fire service back into active service. We got to put into practice everything we have learned over the past few years.

One of the things I love about the Fire Service is that it has a real sense of community because volunteers are encouraged to ask questions in pursuit of learning in our Wednesday practices. Everyone is very supportive of each other and is happy to share their knowledge with others. This is essential in fire because not having the correct knowledge can put people at risk.

I am so glad that I joined the Fire Service which has given me opportunities to learn real life skills as well as discipline and working as a team. When I came to Gordonstoun the fire service was the only service I wanted to join because I felt it really gave us the opportunity to serve the local community, not to mention how cool it is to be trained to fight fires at age seventeen! I have learnt how to be a team member from being in the Fire Service and, as Captain of Fire, I am learning to be more assertive, and I have had to learn to be louder. In a fire situation, whispering “Water on!” is unlikely to be very effective!

It is a great honour to be Captain of Fire, and now that Gordonstoun Fire Service is back on call once again I think we have real potential to support the Elgin Firefighters. I am hoping to be able to be a volunteer firefighter when I leave Gordonstoun as I want to continue being part of the Fire Service.