Our day shifts start at 8.30. We are expected in the station before that to ensure that we are all clean-shaven, uniforms ironed, shoes and boots cleaned or polished. The fire service is quite similar to the military in this aspect with its standards of dress.
As our start time approaches, we swap places with crew members who were on the evening shift. We have two fire trucks in my station and typically have 5 crew members aboard each.
We are all numbered in terms of where we sit and swap places with those numbers from the night shift.
For example, this evening I am number 4, which is the role of a breathing apparatus wearer if needed. Yesterday I was number 2, the driver.
Between 8:30 and 9:15, we have a parade where the order of the day is read out and we perform all our checks on the kit, vehicles and inventories for all lockers on the truck.
Once log books have been signed and kit checked, we go to the "mess" room, where we generally have a drink, talk amongst ourselves and read out any news flashes that have come through email in the hours or days before our shift.
During the morning, we plan our community visits, school visits or business checks and book them in for later in the day. We complete our daily routines and monthly / quarterly checks if needed. Daily checks range from cleaning the station and its grounds, to cleaning out a truck, removing all equipment, testing them, cleaning them and reporting any issues. Monthly and quarterly checks of equipment are more in-depth.
Around 11:00, we tend to stop for breakfast while a few of us organise the training for the day.
Each year, we are legally obliged to perform certain tasks and use certain equipment competently multiple times each month. Our training could be using one of our on-site "houses", setting a controlled fire inside and then being tasked to search the property, using correct procedures to locate casualties.
We could perform combination drills, which includes multiple aspects of our skills, pumping water, setting up ladders, firefighting from the ladders, dealing with burst hoses etc. - all the things that may happen in real life. Crews particularly enjoy Road Traffic Collision training as we get to perform various cutting techniques on cars donated by local services.
For dinner break, one of the crew will have cooked for everyone. The cook is changed each day as so to give everyone a chance to cook.
It's very much a family mentality with our crew. We may not all eat the same food but we all sit together to eat, helping the cook and cleaning up afterwards.
In the afternoon, we will visit houses for our community program, all pre-selected, to ensure that these vulnerable people have the correct safety systems in place in their house, that they are aware of what to do in case there is a fire in their house at any point of the day and also to check the house for hazards, such as poor electrical wiring, greasy kitchen appliances or blocked exits.
Business visits are done equally for business safety purposes and also so that we have an understanding of the layout of the building and what the building is used for.
At any point in the day, we may receive a call for an incident. No matter what we are doing we stop and head straight to the incident. Our breaks are not official and it's often the case that we are at one major incident all day or night, or multiple incidents one after the other, resulting in no breaks or rest. This is part of the job and what we are paid to do. A busy day is often a fast day.
Our day shifts are scheduled to finish at 18:30, if we go to an incident just before this we typically get relieved by the following crew within a couple of hours.
Prior to the end of every shift, we wash down the trucks, re-fuel and clean the floors ready for the on-coming crews.
Night shifts are from 18:30 until 08:30. We tend not to do any school or business visits, but we make a few house calls over the summer months before dark so as not to worry any elderly people.
All routines and checks done at the start of a day shift are also done at the start of a night shift, as things may have changed or been moved since you were last on shift.
Like on a day shift, we all sit down to eat together, around 20:00, with one of the crew having cooked. Evenings from around midnight until 6:00 are our own time to do what we wish at the station - as long as all paperwork and station jobs have been completed, of course.