Tiree’s Voluntary Firefighters – Our Quiet Heroes
Recently a close friend’s chimney caught fire, and, unable to deal with it herself, she called 999. Within minutes a fire fighter was at her home, closely followed by more members of the team. Quickly assessing the situation, they pumped water up the chimney extinguishing the flames. They followed this procedure with a check on the upstairs walls for heat. Satisfied that all was well our Voluntary Firefighters left the scene. My friend was very relieved that all had gone well and that her children were safe. She was also impressed by the skillful and professional way the volunteers dealt with the situation.
“They were very professional. I felt safe and knew that the situation was in good hands”she said.
This incident prompted this article. Not just to sing the praises of those committed and dedicated people who work on our behalf, but also to take the opportunity to remind us all of the crucial role they have within our community.
An Tirisdeach spoke to Stuart MacLean, Group Commander of Argyll & Bute Firefighters.
“The trainees deserve to get the best and right training. This means, the service we provide is the best we can achieve for the members of the local communities that we serve” he said.
This excellent training was very much in evidence the evening of my friend’s chimney fire.
Skillful and Professional.
At present, our volunteers are made up of seven men and two women. Three new male recruits are currently undergoing training. New recruits have to attend two weekend training courses in Oban to learn skills in hose running, pump and ladder work. Another two weekends are required for Breathing Apparatus training. Also, a trainer comes from the mainland six times a year, training is also supplemented by superior officers several times a year. On top of all that, ‘drill night’ is every Wednesday. All volunteers who commit themselves to the Unit know they must be able to drop everything at a moment’s notice. Margaret Worsley, who is currently the longest serving volunteer (14years) and second in command said
“ I could never have done this job without the wonderful support of my family and friends.”
Family Fire Plan
An Tirisdeach asked Crew Commander Macintosh’s advice about staying safe at home.
Smoke alarms were very important and should be at top and bottom of stairs and in every child’s bedroom. Overloading socket’s is asking for trouble, as is smoking in bed. Candles, very much in vogue for some years now, are in fact one of the most common reasons for domestic fires. They should never be placed on plastic or other flammable surfaces, for example T.V.s and stereos. In the event of a fire, it is recommended that you have a family fire plan already in place, which includes a rendezvous point outside. This helps the firefighters, as their lives have been put at risk in the past looking for people in a house when they have already left the building.
Dealing with danger
Firefighters not only respond to domestic fires, but assist the ambulance service and medical team as part of the Emergency Services when the situation requires their presence, this includes road accidents. Work may involve carrying casualties from inaccessible locations to the ambulance. Obviously, physical fitness is a prerequisite for the job, but psychological robustness must also be necessary, as sometimes people are seriously injured, and on occasion there are fatalities.
One volunteer described the team spirit as “fantastic”, another said “it’s like another family.” Part of the reason for this is these people have to deal with danger, the unexpected, frightened and sometimes traumatised people. Supporting one another must be part of the firefighting experience.
Crew Commander Macintosh recalled one of the worst fire’s he attended was at Milton harbour in 2004 when five boats and the pier were on fire. Four boats were completely lost. This incident lasted twelve intense hours and involved Fire Investigators coming out to investigate the cause. Thankfully, there was no fatalities.
Dedication and Commitment
In the course of writing this article An Tirisdeach has been deeply impressed by the dedication and commitment of the Tiree firefighting volunteers. Therefore, it seems inappropriate that the basic facilities they require to make their training lives easier (e.g. Toilets & showers) have not been forthcoming in any budgetary allowance for Tiree.
An Tirisdeach has been in touch with Councillor Donald MacDonald who is our Argylle & Bute representative who sits on the joint Strathclyde/Argyll & Bute Board to ask if he is putting forward Tiree’s case for, what one might call, basic facilities. By next issue one is hoping he will inform us of any progress made on their behalf.
Volunteer fire fighters generally join the service out of a desire to serve their community. Anyone reading this who thinks they could be a committed member of our firefighting team should contact Crew Commander Macintosh on 01879-220-829. The same number applies if you need to have a fire safety check. An Tirisdeach would also like to interview members of Tiree’s Voluntary Ambulance service for a future issue. Like our firefighters, they are an indispensable emergency service.