Inside Immingham - the complete 14 week recruits blog
18 December 2017
Our 20 newest recruits began their wholetime firefighter course at Immingham West Training Centre on 4 September 2017. Over the 14 weeks which followed, the recruits wrote a blog to record their experiences as they took their first steps towards a rewarding new career.
Week 14 04 - 10 December
Just a day after their on-call counterparts had passed out, Humberside Fire and Rescue Service welcomed its 20 newest wholetime firefighters into the fold.
Around 100 family and friends gathered in the marquee on the parade ground to watch their nearest and dearest carry out a rescue from height drill with numerous hoses attacking the 'fire' simultaneously. Santa was even rescued from the top of the training tower!
Teamwork, fitness and firefighting skills were to the fore as trainers, officers and guests looked on.
Chair of the Fire Authority Councillor John Briggs joined the senior management team to oversee the second wholetime passing out parade of a busy 2017.
The K9 Fire Investigation Dogs again treated the guests to a demonstration of their detection skills during the interval. Many of the grandparents seemed just as entertained as the large group of children who attended!
Chief Fire Officer Chris Blacksell, presiding over a new intake for the first time in his new role, was proud to see such a well drilled group:
"These recruits are welcomed into the fire family. They will be our front line and represent the future of the Service which I am proud to lead."
He went on to say how the role had changed in the 30 years since he started and outlined the importance of looking out for the vulnerable, dealing with medical emergencies and educating young people.
Some of those who passed out will be working over Christmas as they will be joining various watches across the Humberside service area in the coming few days.
The CFO thanked all those present for supporting the recruits over the last 14 weeks and for making personal sacrifices to enable them to achieve their ultimate ambition in becoming a firefighter.
The Instructors Award for outstanding passion and pride over the course was given to FF Stephen Gardener. The Endeavour Award for persistent hard work over the whole course went to FF Ryan Purchon and the Silver Axe for the overall top performer was presented to FF Ian Dilkes.
Congratulations to all of the recruits we have had the pleasure of training over the past 14 weeks. There have been some challenging times and some memorable moments (many not for publication here), but the dedication shown by all has been remarkable and we know they will all have long and successful careers in the Fire Service.
The full list of recruits who will start their new lives on stations across the Service area just before Christmas is as follows:
FF Abbott FF Akers FF Boarsman FF Carter
FF Dervey FF Dilkes FF Fewless FF Fordham
FF Fowler FF Gardener FF James FF Morrell
FF Overton FF Page FF Puplett FF Purchon
FF Smith FF Suggitt FF Thomas FF Ventham
FF West FF Whitfield
Best of luck in your new careers.
Week 13 27 November - 03 December
The final week proper of training was spent honing skills in a number of areas such as water rescue, Hazmat and a special day's high rise exercise in Grimsby.
Albion House is one of a number of tower blocks owned by Shoreline in Grimsby and are now empty and due for demolition in 2018. The housing provider in North East Lincs offered the 16 storey block for Humberside Fire and Rescue to use in a realistic training scenario. The recruits handled the complex fire and rescue from one of the upper floors and managed the casualties down the stairs quickly and efficiently.
The rest of the week consisted of their final exam, preparations for the passing out parade and the traditional 'dine-out' with the Chief Fire Officer Chris Blacksell and other senior managers.
Week 12 20 - 26 November
Recruit FF Lee James (Red Squad)
This week Red Squad had Swift Water Rescue training, It started off with a day of theory and getting our kit ready for the week - some of the lads had a sweat on just getting into the kit!!
Tuesday saw us drive up to Tees Barrage for three days of training on their man-made white water course. It is something most of us would pay to do, so we feel privileged to be undertaking this training!
We had a late afternoon slot, as the instructors wanted to try the course when it was dark. After getting kitted up, buddy checking and safety brief, we made our way into the water to learn the swimming techniques. The water was really cold and after only five or ten minutes someone (who shall remain nameless) had to get out…. but fair play to him, he had a big leak in his suit. He was back in the water in clean dry kit not long later.
Thankfully the Fire Service allowed us to stay over which saved on a lot of travelling. On Wednesday morning we had breakfast at the venue before spending the morning and early afternoon using our techniques to swim down the course, learning how to rescue using the throwbags, tethered swim and tension diagonal rescue.
On Thursday we did some flood raft work before doing some more rescue techniques. Lastly we went on the short course to do some wading with poles, we soon found out you couldn’t wade across on your own……
We then headed back to Immingham, tired, but everyone had really enjoyed the course!
Friday saw both squads sit a Swift Water Rescue exam first thing. Red squad then had a day of confined space training to finish off the week.
Next week is the penultimate week of the course which will end with a final exam!
Week 11 13 - 19 November
Recruit FF Mark Thomas (Red Squad)
After a successful week last week with everyone in Red Squad passing their IEC assessments, this week started on a high.
However, we soon recognised that we had a lot to learn for our RTC section of the course. Needless to say, spending most of Monday in the classroom was both tough and challenging with a lot of theory to get our heads around. The good thing is that now at least some of us know the difference between the front of the car and the back of the car; though knowing the difference between the roof and the floor proved to be a bit more tricky!
After getting our brains wrapped around that, we quickly got to grips with the serious theory training. Granted that some of the videos we watched had a comedy element (such as getting in the way of an exploding airbag can guarantee you a couple of weeks off work), we definitely had the realisation that we will have to (as part of the Fire Service) deal with some pretty gruesome and heart wrenching sights. At one point I don’t think there was a dry eye in the classroom.
As we started the practical elements, we were all extremely eager to get our hands on the tools to start destroying some cars! Before they would let us loose, we got to see first-hand the ferocity that the airbags go off with…not even two weeks off work would warrant being on the end of that!
As part of the safety brief, it was explained that if we hear the words ‘for real’ it meant that there was a real injury and should be treated accordingly. Once we got going on rescue scenarios, we did start to question whether we could use the ‘for real’ rule or if it was only the casualties, especially when cramp set in in those tight spaces.
When we got our hands on the tools and started being put through our paces, it soon came to light that even at 8 degrees outside you can get very sweaty. This went on throughout the week and we can only apologise to those that were acting as live casualties due to the amount of other peoples’ sweat that got dripped on them, and they could do nothing about it other than soak it up like a sponge. One ‘casualty’ did actually question whether it had started to rain! We promise none of it was done deliberately – or was it?
The amazing thing that happened this week was that we all passed our RTC assessments both practical and theory, meaning that Red Squad only have one more exam to complete!
Only three more weeks to go - not that we’re counting - but we are definitely all eager to start doing the job properly.
Week 10 6 - 12 November
Recruit FF Carl Carter (Blue Squad)
Week ten saw the division of Blue Squad and Red Squad again and it was the Blues turn to encounter the hot stuff!!
Blue have been doing Compartment Fire Behaviour Training (CFBT) which incorporates branch techniques and tactical firefighting ensuring teams are safe when progressing through the fire compartments.
Monday included the theoretical input in the morning, followed by the afternoon where we encountered the breathing apparatus sets. This entailed entering confined space into the sewers which were blocked with wooden pallets and debris. We all found this challenging and fun at the same time.
This brought us up into the main building where we followed round our lay incorporating a number of floors and proceeded through the infamous 'Smartie tube'!! (very very tight tunnel) in pitch black!
Tuesday again saw the theoretical input in the morning which detailed how to remove your set should you need to in an emergency. This was promptly followed by a practical where crews were expected to fit through a gap the size of an A3 piece of paper!
For the rest of the week we had different scenarios where we worked together to ensure all casualties were recovered from the premises and fires effectively extinguished.
Week 9 30 October - 5 November
Recruit FFs Aaron Fewlass and Tim Smith
This week brought the whole course back together after three weeks of separation (which Blues thought was great!!)
Much anticipation was around this week with the possibility of many unexpected call outs. Testing our skills with the full group, fire ground combination skills and culminating with a massive drill on Thursday, at the request of Area Manager Topham, which in our eyes went perfectly!!!
Monday night there was a little calm before the storm, allowing Red Squad a trip out of sunny Immingham to visit Control. Little did we know that at approximately 23.55hrs we would be woken by the turnout tones. With a swift response and a proud line out of Recruit FFs, we were met by an extremely unhappy Watch Manager who firmly asked us what was missing from the area that we were stood in.
It was at this point that the thought of being back in bed soon dissipated! Blue Squad had made the slight error of leaving the fire engines outside. (Although they believe that Red should have taken a piece of this blame, we are all ‘one team’ after all?). Blue squad are now sure that this mistake will never be made again!
Tuesday and Wednesday gave the opportunity for students to show off their presentation shills, and it's fair to say that some were a little better than others and if all else fails, then acting maybe a good fall back.
Thursday allowed us out as a whole group with a visit to Princes Quay shopping centre in Hull (photo taken on the roof) to see and understand the commercial fire safety systems up close and personal, with a guided behind the scenes tour. Also giving us an added luxury of VIP cinema viewing (for all of 5 minutes!)
Friday morning gave us invaluable input from various mental health specialists, with a few tears shed when sharing some sad personal experiences.
This was also the week of our much anticipated charity event at St Stephens shopping centre in Hull. A huge thankyou to all involved and especially to the shoppers for their kind donations. So far the money collected has reached an impressive £1750 with more still to come!!!
Unfortunately this week is a sad week for the group due to the loss of Recruit FF Richard Page. We wish him a speedy recovery and all the best for the future. See you soon 'RICKY'!!!
Week 8 23 - 29 October
Recruit FFs Sam Overton and Josh Fordham (Blue Squad)
Blue Squad spent the week completing the Swift Water Rescue course whilst the Reds were at Humberside Airport drilling with simulated plane crashes and working with foam.
The first day took us over to Fire Service Headquarters to cover the theory and get our kit allocation. They also gave us the chance to practice throwing a throwline. We were asked to pick a target and throw the line simulating rescuing a casualty from the water. This soon highlighted the fact that some people are better at throwing than others, but with a bit of practice there were certainly signs of improvement!
The following day we ventured as a team up to Stockton-on-Tees to a venue called Tees Barrage. This is a man-made white water course originally designed as a training venue for the Olympics. The first day at the venue gave us the opportunity to understand the hydraulics of a fast flowing river and looked at how we as rescuers can make progress downstream safely and effectively.
Initially there was a lot of nervous faces making way from one side to another as no one wanted to be the first to be washed away and rescued by one of the course trainers, with everybody wanting to retain their pride. We made good progress and everybody held their own making their way down without being washed away. Once successfully down the course we the then used throwlines for real, hoping that what we had practiced was enough. We had casualties coming down stream, many of which were rescued but not all of them were so lucky. We went on throughout the course looking at rescue techniques, using the rescue sled and throw line bags.
Two of the recruits were unfortunate enough to have a small leak on their dry suits. This led to a day of cold, wet legs. Not that they moaned about it…
Another recruit managed to lose three boots over the space of 24 hours. However, luckily for him we found them on the last day circulating in the ‘eddy’ of the bottom pool. A passing photographer spent a few hours on the bankside taking some pictures of us in action. Many thanks to her for these cracking photos.
Everyone enjoyed the week and we are now much more confident when dealing with water. Next week Blue and Red Squad come back together to duel it out on the drill yard…
Week 7 16 - 22 October
Recruit FF Richard Dervey (Blue Squad)
Last week saw Red and Blue Squads split up. Red took on their three weeks of BA training including some entanglement drills at HQ and Blue took on three weeks of specialty training: starting with IEC last week and RTC this week.
IEC (Immediate Emergency Care) was intense with detailed theory sessions and functional practical sessions and brought a very different challenge to those faced during the five weeks of pumps and ladders which we had just completed. So by the time RTC came round, we were all ready to get back on the drill yard.
The instructors we had for IEC were back again, bright and breezy on Monday morning to take us through the week and they had nice big smiles on their faces as they led us back in to the classroom for a day of theory. The theory was definitely worth it because there was a lot of detail that needed covering before we could get hands on kit and people (dummies) out of cars.
Little did we know of the graft they would be putting us through!
Day two saw us all dressed, ready and eager for the day of graft ahead and it did not disappoint. We started with a quick reflection of the previous day and were then on with stabilising cars (in all kinds of positions), vehicle and casualty information gathering and planning. There is something strange about being inside a car caring for a dummy while the car is upside down, especially when one of the tallest guys on the course has to become a contortionist to squeeze through a tiny boot space to get to the casualty dummy in the front seat.
The afternoon saw us get our hands on tools and we were skillfully navigated through the stripping down and taking apart of an everyday car. We soon found out that there are huge differences in the strength of some cars, as cutting one of the cars was like a hot knife through butter and others were not quite as easy.
End of day two brought the first 5-a-side football match (though it was 6 on 5) and the standard was pretty good…at times…depending who was on the ball. Overall it was great game, a good laugh and a chance to get out of the station.
The rest of the week was spent honing our skills and mastering the team approach of working simultaneously towards the casualty rescue and it was great fun and very informative! The instructors were fantastic, adaptable and approachable and made the course even more enjoyable so long as we all remember that ‘out’s better than nowt lads!’
Week 6 09 - 15 October
Recruit FF Robin Puplett
Red and Blue Squads split up this week to begin our speciality training. For Reds it is three weeks of BA (breathing apparatus) which we've all really been looking forward to.
Day one didn't disappoint, as we got stuck into some theory and were then introduced to our BA sets which are a complex and high tech piece of kit. With that done, it was time to get into the OTC which is a purpose built building, very reminiscent of 'Castle Greyskull', that is used to simulate various burning building scenarios and enable us access to realistic training scenarios.
Although our first venture in was a "cold wear", it soon became apparent that we were to be put through our paces navigating sewers, stairways, a variety of rooms and the infamous 'Smartie Tube'. As the name suggests, a very narrow tube is involved, but the fun ends there, as we squeezed our way into this impossibly small space and then inched our way along in complete darkness until, after what seems like a lifetime, the end mercifully comes. Although difficult, this achievement did our confidence the world of good and proved that our equipment is second-to-none. It was a great introduction to moving in BA and had us all eager for more.
The next three days were focused on Compartment Fire Behaviour Training (CFBT) and Tactical Firefighting. These sessions took place in shipping containers in which fires are created giving us the chance to observe development and practice firefighting techniques.
To give us all maximum exposure to this training the group was split with some of us heading up to North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service's training centre in Easingwold. The North Yorkshire instructors made us very welcome and did their best to ensure we got to experience some rather toasty conditions and witness some brilliant backdraught demonstrations.
We rounded the week off on Friday with more in-depth training at HQ and a series of visits back into the OTC to practice rescue techniques and some more confined space challenges which had us removing our BA sets in complete darkness whilst remaining under air. A fantastic introduction to BA and we can't wait to get stuck back into it next week!
Week 5 02 - 08 October
Recruit FF Ryan Purchon
Week five saw us enter our final week of pumps and ladders for a while as we now separate into our specialist units (IEC,BA, RTC and water rescue).
Had a visit down to Howdens Joinery to see some business safety systems this week which was above and beyond the required level needed, so was interesting to learn about it.
We went down into Grimsby to perform a large water relay on a big open area. One of the recruits was so amazed by visiting Grimsby he had to ring his girlfriend when we got back to tell her all about it!
Our final swim session down at Immingham Leisure Centre went well. We all enjoyed it and the instructor decided to join us in the pool at the end of the session with some persuasion (she was thrown in!).
Another birthday on the course this week so we had another cake baked by Terry and Jan. Got to watch those calories!!
Friday's exam came and went with no dramas - all passed again and we found out our scores during the appraisals. To finish the week we were out the back doing some big combination drills and then a brief on the following week's activities for the two squads.
Over a third of the way through now - roll on week six!
Week 4 25 September - 1 October
Recruit FFs Lee James & James Ventham
Everyone returned for week four which started with specialist Working at Heights Instructors taking the squads and sending us 'over the edge'. The first day was classroom based, going through all the theory and specialist kit. On the evening we had a visit from WM Bryan to talk about the RDS (retained) system.
Tuesday saw our first taste of practical working at heights. There were a few white knuckles and some people (who shall remain nameless) that were not too keen on heights….. We also had our first attempts at ladder carry downs and also using a roof ladder.
Although we still have ten more weeks to go, talk of station allocations came up between all of us - people wanting to know where there are going to be based at the end of the course. We haven’t yet put our preferences in, but hopefully we will find out soon.
Wednesday and Thursday saw us spilt into our squads. Blue Squad went to HQ for more Working at Heights drills and at the end of the day an impromptu Working at Heights exam was thrust upon the squad. The team did well considering they had no time for revision. Red Squad spent the day at Immingham doing combination drills. On the Thursday both squads swapped over, obviously Red squad spent Wednesday night revising for the Working at Heights exam….
Thursday night we celebrated Recruit FF West’s birthday with a lovely cake made by our onsite chef. Everyone then had their heads in the books revising for Friday's written exam and our first practical assessments.
Friday morning saw a few nervous faces, but the written exam was out of the way first thing and thankfully we all passed! We then had a lecture on Safeguarding Adults and Children. The afternoon saw our practical assessments in the form of Pumping, Knots & Lines and Ladders. Again, everyone passed which was a relief!
Week 3 18 - 24 September
Recruit FFs Paul Abbott & Ryan Purchon
After training for the last two weeks on pumping and ladders, this week saw them put together to form combination drills involving all 11 of us from our squad carrying out large drills. There was lots to think about, but the Red and Blue Squads are now working really well as teams with everyone knowing what tasks need to be done on the drill ground. As the week progressed, we all felt a great sense of achievement.
A relieving factor this week was that there was less ‘drilling by numbers’ - which involves shouting out numbers 1-4 or 1-5 to form crews going down the line of squad members. At least once a day someone would drop a clanger (myself included), resulting in the full squad having to run up to the top of the drill yard tower and back down again. It usually went something like “1,2,3,4,1,2,3,4,1......1!”...........”TOWER!”. Saying this though, we were caught cold once or twice by the instructors and needless to say, ended up back up the tower!
Tuesday was foam day and away we went in the minibus to a nearby petrochemical site to utilise their facilities. All was well when we arrived, until we realised one important part was missing........the fire engine! Eventually 20 minutes later it arrived, having taken a scenic route amidst all the excitement. The driver, who shall remain unnamed, took some flak, and proceeded to park the engine and then go on a guided tour of the site with Red Squad. It was time for Blue Squad to get stuck in using some foam; brilliant we thought, but one other important thing was missing - the keys for the fire engine, now happily touring the site in the unnamed driver's trouser pocket! Choice words swiftly followed.
Thursday morning saw some light relief in the form of some team building where we were split into four groups and pitted against each other in various tasks. One of which involved building a tower as high as possible using just newspaper capable of holding whiteboard markers on the top. The winning tower was slightly higher than ours, but they did have an extra 10 seconds after the time ran out to steady the structure!
Friday soon came round after a busy week and it was time for the weekly exam. Following lunch and some more combination drills, we were all ready for a deserved weekend back home.
Week 2 11 - 17 September
Recruit FF Lloyd Akers
After getting our hands on the appliances at the end of week one, the lads were raring to go for more of the same in the second week.
Week two saw the introduction of ladders and pumping from open water. With the exposure to pumping in week one, we all had a bit of an idea as to how to pump this way with only a quick run through being enough.
The newly introduced ladders and the ‘Confused Pitch’ resulted in confused faces and the Watch Managers being asked “could you just run through that once more…?”.
On Wednesday morning, we were packed off to Immingham Leisure Centre to go swimming. The general feeling amongst the lads was that we would go for a swim to show our readiness for the water rescue training that we will receive later on in the course.
On arrival we got changed into our Speedos, lined up on the pool side ready to have a splash around. The lady taking the session calmed us down, introduced herself and told us that we would warm up with a casual 32 lengths… there was no punchline! She was being serious, leading to some very tired little soldiers, especially with a full on afternoon to follow!
Throughout the week, the pressure of Friday’s exam hung over us. Where in week one we couldn’t wait to get out of the classroom, this week we were in there at any spare opportunity getting our heads around pressure laws, pumps and primers and windows and doors. Not all of the recruits took to the academic side of the course as easily as others, so we all chipped in together to get each other through as we do on the fire ground.
After a physically and mentally draining week, we were all ready for home, looking rough and feeling years older. Somebody who was a year older was Recruit Aaron ‘I have a false tooth’ Fewlass, whose birthday was on Thursday, donning his party hat with pride and giving everybody an award winning smile. Happy birthday pal!
Week 1 04-10 September
Recruit FF Lloyd Akers
The first day of our training was a slight anti-climax with a traffic jam on the way into Immingham making pretty much everybody late! On eventually beginning our course, our fingers quickly got plenty of exercise with three days of admin, Health and Safety briefings and labelling.
With the boring paperwork at the start of the course, people were getting frustrated and we all couldn’t wait to get out onto the yard and start playing with hoses. The boring stuff was actually a bit of a Godsend, with some of the lads having to learn to iron and polish shoes with parade being every morning where we are inspected by our Watch Managers.
On our first inspection, one of the recruits was certain he was ready to go; shirt and trousers crisply creased, fluff free and his shoes shiny. He made his way down to the appliance room with the rest of the recruits before realising he had the wrong trousers on to calls of “They’re the wrong trousers Grommit!!!”… Grommit hasn’t made the same mistake again.
(Honourable mentions need to be made for the recruit who blamed an iron burn on ‘starch’… he thought it was safe).
On Thursday we finally got out into the yard for our first drill sessions. We started by learning how to secure a hose out of control, crawling along the pipe and eventually standing with the hose to bring it under control.
We were quickly wishing we were back in the classroom when we were given a brutal 12 minutes of hose running, followed by an afternoon of hose drills, all topped off with a fitness assessment using the bleep test… knackering!
The lads are all bonding really well with plenty of banter flying around from day one (a lot of it can’t be repeated on this blog!). We all can’t quite believe we’re actually here at last and, after a couple of us helped out at the UKRO Challenge at the KCOM on Saturday, we’re all looking forward to much of the same next week.