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Hot as Hell


English Matters - epaper ⋅ Ausgabe 2/2020 vom 31.01.2020

English Matters asks London firefighter Anthony Williams the burning questions about keeping London safe.


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London firefighter Anthony Williams


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EM: Hi Anthony, thanks for helping us create an interview hot off the press! Let’s start with a little bit about you: how long have you been a London firefighter?

AW: I joined the London Fire Brigade 18 years ago in 2001. Like all new, trainee firefighters then, I had to successfully complete 17 weeks basic training before starting at a fire station. Then there’s a four-year probation to complete a personal development record before becoming fully qualified. I have remained on the same watch – green watch at Hendon fire station in NW London, for all of my career. I’ve seen a lot of personnel changes, but have always had a great group of colleagues around me. The station’s ground (the immediate area we cover) includes residential properties, industrial units, open spaces and main roads, so I’ve seen a large variety of incidents.

EM: How is the area you work in determined? And do you move between areas much?

AW: Firefighters are posted at a base station, which will be their normal place of work. Sometimes a station will have more than the minimum number of personnel they need, so any extra staff can be asked to cover at another station which is short of their minimum number of staff that day. In theory, this could be anywhere in London. As well as individual moves, it is also sometimes necessary to send a fire appliance and crew from its base station to cover at another station which may be out at a protracted incident or involved in a training exercise.

EM: Being a firefighter is obviously not a nine to five job – what are the hours?

1 fire brigade | Feuerwehr trainee | Praktikant, Azubi watch | Wache, Feuerwache colleague ˈkɒliːɡ | Arbeitskollege to cover sth | etw. abdecken, umfassen to include sth | etw. einschließen property | Grundstück, Objekt, Besitz industrial unit | Industrieanlage, -gebäude staff | Personal, Mitarbeiter fire appliance | Feuerwehrfahrzeug protracted | langwierig, sich hinziehend involved in sth | in etw. eingebunden obviously ˈɒbviəsli | offensichtlich

Artikelbild für den Artikel "Hot as Hell" aus der Ausgabe 2/2020 von English Matters. Dieses epaper sofort kaufen oder online lesen mit der Zeitschriften-Flatrate United Kiosk NEWS.

Bildquelle: English Matters, Ausgabe 2/2020

AW: In London, all fire stations are whole-time, meaning they provide 24-hour cover. The general shift pattern follows an eight-day repetitive cycle consisting of: two days 09:30-20:00, then two nights 20:00-09:30, then four rest days. This works out to just over 42 hours per week.

EM: Wow, you must be tired after working through the night! How do you cope?

AW: Thankfully my family are very understanding and accommodating. They allow me to sleep during the day when I’m working nights. It can be very disorientating and confusing for your body working shift patterns like these, so it’s important to listen to your body and rest when needed. This also ensures you’re ready for action whatever shift you’re working.

EM: As the name suggests, historically a firefighter’s role was solely combatting fires, but in the modern world your duties are surely a lot more diverse: what other actions do you typically perform?

AW: Yes that’s correct. People are better educated in fire safety nowadays and technology has evolved to help detect fires in their infancy to give warning before they develop. In fact, these days a lot of our work is based around community fire safety where, for example, we visit homes to carry out safety checks and give advice; we’ll even supply and fit smoke detectors for free! That said, fires do still occur, which obviously is our bread and butter, but the list of emergencies we could get called to is endless. I never cease to be amazed by some of the call outs we get. The most common incidents we attend are: faulty/accidental alarm actuations, people shut in lifts, road traffic collisions, people locked in/out of rooms/ buildings and floodings (from burst pipes/ leaving taps running/heavy rain). Then there are the less common and sometimes quite peculiar ones: noisy boilers, burst gas mains, scaffolding collapses and yes, cats up trees!

EM: What’s the strangest or most surprising “shout” you’ve had?

AW: I remember attending an incident at a builders’ yard where a large fire was spreading quite rapidly. All of a sudden there were some loud bangs and fizzing as several gas cylinders shot into the sky like rockets. Pretty scary! On a less serious note, when called to a 14-year-old boy stuck in a baby swing in the local park, it was difficult not to laugh.

2 shift pattern | Schichtschema, Arbeitszeitenplan to consist of sth | aus etw. bestehen to work out | hier: betragen, hinauslaufen auf etw. tired ˈtaɪəd | müde to cope with sth | mit etw. fertig werden accommodating | entgegenkommend to allow sb to do sth | jdm. erlauben, etw. zu tun confusing | verwirrend to ensure sth | etw. gewährleisten to combat sth | etw. bekämpfen duty | Pflicht diverse | vielfältig to evolve | sich entwickeln to detect sth | etw. erkennen, entdecken to be in one’s infancy | (noch) in den Kinderschuhen stecken community | Gemeinschaft to carry out sth | etw. ausführen/ durchführen safety check | Sicherheitskontrolle smoke detector | Rauchmelder to occur | auftreten, passieren bread and butter | Brotverdienst emergency ɪˈmɜːdʒənsi | Notfall to get called to sth | zu etw. gerufen werden to cease to do sth | aufhören, etw. zu tun faulty | falsch, fehlerhaft lift | Aufzug flooding | Überflutung, Rohrbruch burst | Bruch, Platzen pipe | Rohr tap | Wasserhahn peculiar | seltsam, merkwürdig gas mains | Gasleitungen scaffolding | Gerüst, Baugerüst collapse | Zusammensturz, Einsturz

EM: Do you still put out a lot of fires then? What’s the biggest you’ve battled?

AW: Inevitably there will always be fires, whether accidental or deliberate. We’re particularly busy dealing with fires – shrub, grass, woodland, etc. during prolonged periods of hot, dry weather – not quite on the scale of the wildfires in California, Indonesia and Australia that you see on the news, but devastating nonetheless.

Two years ago, my watch was first on the scene to (what became) a 15-pump fire (15 fire appliances with 70 firefighters). A mid-terraced shop with residential flats above and to the rear had caught fire. Three people were trapped in a second floor flat, shouting for help through the thick smoke bellowing from a window. My colleagues and I made the decision to put up a ladder in the extremely confined position below the window, with no time to don our breathing apparatus due to worsening conditions and time running out for the trapped people. We didn’t hesitate to scale the ladder into the smoke to rescue the three people – three generations of the same family. I’m pleased to say that, except for smoke inhalation, there were no further injuries. Following treatment in hospital (for the rescued people and the firefighters) everyone made a full recovery.

EM: You perform a heroic job. How do you cope with the risks it involves? And what recognition is given to firefighters for their work?

AW: Firefighters are trained and expected to take risks on a daily basis due to the nature of their work and recognition for this is not anticipated, although praise and thanks is often (happily) received from members of the public. Where actions above and beyond our normal roles are exhibited – similar to the difficult ladder pitch and smoke risk mentioned earlier, a letter of commendation can be awarded from senior officers, including our Commissioner. And for exceptional circumstances the Queen’s Fire Service Medal for Distinguished Service could be awarded.

EM: You definitely deserved that commendation. Thank you for all the work you do keeping the people of London safe. Finally, what advice can you give our readers regarding fire or road safety?

AW: Common sense can avert a lot of potential incidents – don’t leave cooking, burning candles or other hazards unattended. And we recommend not leaving the house with chargers plugged in or washing machines, tumble dryers and dishwasher on. For road safety – drive to arrive alive.

3 to spread | sich ausbreiten all of a sudden | urplötzlich bang | Knall, Bums fizzing | Zischen pretty scary | ziemlich unheimlich/ beängstigend baby swing | Babyschaukel to put out sth | etw. löschen inevitably ɪnˈevɪtəbli | zwangsläufig, unvermeidlich whether | ob accidental | zufällig deliberate | absichtlich, vorsätzlich shrub | Busch, Strauch woodland | Waldgebiet, Wald prolonged | anhaltend, langwierig wildfire | Lauffeuer, Wildfeuer nonetheless | nichtsdestotrotz mid-terraced | Reihen-, terrassenartig flat | Wohnung rear | Hinter-, rückseitig to catch fire | sich entzünden, entflammen trapped | gefangen, eingeschlossen thick | dick, dicht confined | begrenzt, beengt to don sth | (sich) etw. überziehen, etw. anlegen due to sth | wegen/aufgrund von etw. worsening | sich verschlechternd running out | ablaufend, knapp werdend to hesitate | zögern except for sth | außer etw. injury | Verletzung to make a full recovery | sich vollständig erholen
4 recognition | Anerkennung, Würdigung on a daily basis | (tag)täglich anticipated | erwartet exhibited ɪɡˈzɪbɪtɪd | gezeigt, zur Schau gestellt pitch | Steigung, Winkel, Neigung letter of commendation | Anerkennungsschreiben including sb | einschließlich jdm. circumstance | Umstand, Sachlage definitely | absolut, bestimmt regarding sth | bezüglich etw. common sense | gesunder Menschenverstand to avert sth | etw. abwehren, vermeiden charger | Ladegerät plugged in | eingesteckt tumble dryer | Wäschetrockner on | eingeschaltet

Interesting Terms

The London Fire Brigade has a style guide for all written materials! Here are three examples of common terms and their official equivalents:
Fire engine – Fire appliance
Fireman – Firefighter
Car crash – Road traffic collision

London Fire Brigade in Numbers

• Formed: 1865
• Stations: 103
• Engines: 157
• Employees: 5,992
• Average annual shouts per station: 1,000
• Busiest station in London: approx. 4,000 calls a year – 3,000 false alarm, 500 fires, 500 special service.
• Average number of staff per station: From 7-22 per watch

average | durchschnittlich, Durchschnitts-

Artikelbild für den Artikel "Hot as Hell" aus der Ausgabe 2/2020 von English Matters. Dieses epaper sofort kaufen oder online lesen mit der Zeitschriften-Flatrate United Kiosk NEWS.

Bildquelle: English Matters, Ausgabe 2/2020

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