‘A day in the life of a firefighter’
Peninsula Living spent the day at Narrabeen Fire and Rescue with senior firefighters of C Platoon, Jed Stewart and Daryn Hyde, who gave an insight into their role.
The first thing I learnt on my day at Narrabeen Fire Station happened approximately two minutes after stepping through the door. I was greeted by senior firefighter Jed who informed me that the ‘pump was out for the day’, which I quickly learnt meant the fire truck.
Narrabeen Fire and Rescue is home to two different types of trucks, or ‘appliances’ as Jed told me they were also called. The pump is used for fires, as it holds water inside along with various other pieces of equipment. Then there is the rescue truck, for rescue emergencies, including off a cliff or in a car.
“They are like a big toolbox,” Jed says.
What is an average day for a fire fighter?
What was absolutely clear from the get-go was that no two days are the same in this intense job. Firefighters never know what to expect from an upcoming shift, but they are prepared to respond to any emergency. Six firies make up C Platoon and they work two 24-hour shifts in an eight-day period.
I was given a tour of the building to get a real feel for the environment where they spend their time when not out in action. As they do 24-hour shifts, they each have a designated place to sleep when they aren’t needed for emergencies.
They showed me how they complete training around the station and create obstacles to keep their skills active and simulate vertical rescues with equipment. Narrabeen station are one of few stations in Sydney which are qualified in vertical rescues.
“We can just hang and cross over the ropes and create challenges and things that aren't on a massive cliff. It allows us to respond quicker,” Daryn says.
The platoon has a great work dynamic and each member takes turns cooking for the team, along with playing practical jokes and confiding in each other.
“You can get a really good meal sometimes,” Jed laughs.
“There was a time when I cooked for everybody and I got it completely wrong. We have had a a few food poisonings.”
The team have regular mandatory drills and when things are quiet, they will have extra training. Keeping fit is important as the work wear alone is heavy and when you add an oxygen tank and any extra equipment to hold, the weight can easily add up.
Jed and Daryn say that some days they have had shifts working 24 hours straight, going from one emergency to the next, and then there are other days when they attend a few false alarms.
I asked if they had any stories which have stuck with them, to which Jed immediately replied, “the tanker fire”.
“A petrol tanker drove down Mona Vale Road and tipped over and slid into all these cars, the petrol tanker was on fire and fire was running down the road. It was like a movie scene,” he explains.
“We were here, and I looked outside and the sky was black from the smoke.
“We turned up and Daryn got out to help, and the boss sent me around to help the other firies on the downstream, I was working and there was, sadly, a guy next to me that had died. I didn’t even know he was there because there was that much smoke.”
Jed informs me that counselling is always available whenever they feel like that need or want it.
Fire and Rescue in lockdown
Lockdown saw Narrabeen Fire and Rescue being called out more regularly for rescues on walks and hikes around the Northern Beaches.
“We were pulling people off the trails every week, slipping, falling, running into trees,” Jed says.
“This local government area (LGA) was the best one to be locked down in because there is so much to do, but people were doing things that they wouldn’t normally do.
“Even in my house, going mountain biking went through the roof.”
Jed and Daryn say a challenging part of rescuing people from bush walks is that they are often unable to receive an accurate location, which can lead the rescue team to taking an educated guess on the location.
Daryn tells me that there are two apps which members of the community can download on their phones that are beneficial in emergencies and can potentially save someone’s life.
The first app is the Emergency Plus App.
“It provides you with the longitude and latitude coordinates for helicopters or response of any kind. They can pinpoint exactly where you are, so you activate that and we can find you,” Daryn says.
The second is the Three Words App.
“It could be something like ‘shelf donkey road’ and it provides your exact location using three words. Anywhere in the world is covered by three different words, it’s the same thing just a different way of doing it,” Daryn says.
They also instruct locals to have an escape plan for their property, regularly check their smoke alarms and know about bush fire safety.
Daryn says members of the community are always welcome to reach out and ask for help when it comes to fire safety. Alternatively, you can visit the NSW Fire and Rescue website.
“There’s lots of information on the website. So, you can print out a template and draw your own house into it and develop strategies for escaping,” Daryn says.
“Whenever I give a fire safety talk to the kids, I get all the kids to go home and say, ‘We want a fire safety plan’ to their parents,” Jed says.
I had an in-depth tour of the rescue truck and all of the equipment it carries, even holding one of the heavy pieces of machinery. It was difficult to hold, never mind trying to manoeuvre and actually utilise it.
It’s fair to say that the fire service does not have a simple job. Physically and mentally, it is demanding and hard work.
When asked what their favourite part about the job was, Jed says, “The camaraderie, easily.” Daryn agrees.
If you would like to find out more information, or apply to be a firefighter, visit fire.nsw.gov.au.