At 32 he certainly isn’t the oldest in the station, but he is definitely no longer the youngest. Adam has been a firefighter/EMT for just over 10 years. He was hooked when he was just a kid. Firefighters came to his school, there was smoke and fire, the team did a demonstrations – and that was it. He was going to be a firefighter. Jonathan is an engineer, father of two, and has 14 years of firefighting under his belt.
The radios crackle to life – an alert from a local school. Adam and Jonathan have just finished checking the fire truck – and spraying water everywhere (am sure there is an important technical reason for this – but I don’t know it). We leap – or in my case – clamber – into the truck. OMG I am in the back of a fire truck. I feel exactly like that shocked emoji. The lights are all flashing, the radio is squawking, I am trying not to get in the way and do as I am told – and buckle myself in. Off we rush – lights flashing – to the school. A teenage girl is having problems. The guys meet Crystal (firefighter/EMT) and Jessica (firefighter/paramedic) – the ambulance crew – at the scene and they dash into the building. I stay outside. Although I was told I can come in, I just don’t want to be in the way.
Jonathan and Adam come back out and grab the bright yellow gurney out of the back of the ambulance, and dash back in. A few minutes later an apparently unconscious girl is rolled out of the school, and tucked neatly into the ambulance by Crystal and Jessica. The girl is fine, but is going to the hospital as a precaution.
Back into the truck we climb, then off down to grab groceries for lunch.. (yes, firefighters eat too). it was slightly novel heading to the grocery store in a fire truck. I mean – it’s pretty large and takes up quite a lot of space. I tagged along inside, feeling a bit naked without my camera – and looking like a slightly weird fireman super-fan – following them around the store. They are debating what to cook, while trying to keep under the budget of $20 per meal for everyone, when a siren-like noise comes from their radios. Shopping cart abandoned – off we dash to the truck – hop back in and head towards a fire at a grocery store in the next town. Halfway there they are told they are not needed – but since our ambulance is off delivering the teenager to the nearest hospital, and the next town’s fire truck is at the fire, we stage at their fire station with their ambulance in case another emergency comes through.
Adam reverses the truck (at quite some speed for such a huge vehicle I might add… I sound like my mother) into the bay. There on the left is a mechanic trying to put the back door for lock the fire station ambulance back on again. HQ sent the part, but it doesn’t quite seem to be fitting properly. Hmmm. This means that if there is an emergency call where an ambulance is needed, this one cannot go. One ambulance out of commission disrupts the fine balance between fire stations – it is not like they can just find another one and use that.
We hang around for a few minutes and plug the fire truck into a cable hanging from the ceiling – it keeps the batteries charged – smart right? But wait there’s more… when we are ready to leave Adam turns on the truck and the cable is automatically ejected from the socket so the truck can drive out without ripping the power point out of the ceiling. I wondered aloud how many times firemen had driven the truck out still attached for them to come up with that idea. Jonathan reckons quite a few! Apparently it is quite embarrassing to drive a fire truck down the street with a cable hanging out of it – who knew?
We head back to the grocery, grab some mince and lettuce for bun-less burgers and back to the station. I notice again how fast Adam reverses – I am either getting old – or this is normal. Crystal gives me a tour of the station, they got back a few minutes before us from dropping off the patient – and now she, and Jessica have to write the report. The non-glamorous part of working in the fire department.
The station is like a rabbit warren – its built in a circle – sort of, with offshoots. There are comfortable looking dorm rooms for napping, enormous recliners, a huge TV in the common room, and a pretty awesome kitchen where Jonathan and Adam are getting the cooking done. I take photos as they slice and dice. Adam is a hunter when he isn’t being a fireman, he has a bird dog back home. He says he can’t wait for birding season to start. Jonathan enjoys camping, and gives me some advice on the lift-kit I need for off-roading.
Kent, a mechanic walks in holding some papers. They are to be filled in by every firefighter, sealed and kept in the admin office. They are the last wishes of each firefighter that works on the station, should they be killed in the line of duty. The man explains that you can put a letter in there to your loved ones, state any last wishes you may have, and decide who – from your team – you want to notify your family of your death.
I stand there listening. We, as civilians don’t realize just how much these women and men put on the line for us every day. Crystal is a single mom, she spends 48 hours away from her daughter at a time, relying on friends and family to look after her daughter during that time. There is no other parent if something should happen.
Crystal and Jessica walk in for lunch and Jonathan explains what the papers are for. The mood is lightened a bit as they discuss what they want done with their bodies. Jessica wants to be planted in a tree pod. The others want to be cremated. No-one is a fan of burial. It takes up so much space and what if you aren’t really dead? Jonathan mentions that when a pirate died at sea, and their shroud was being stitched up, the last stitch went through the dead person’s nose to make sure they weren’t just sick. I doubt however that they would do that in a modern hospital.
Check out the rest of the gallery (in progress!) here: https://georginafordphotography57.pixieset.com/newcastlefirefighters/