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Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service

As applications open for new firefighters, recent recruit Sioned says: “If it scares you, go for it!”

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As Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service open its applications for people to become full-time firefighters, new recruit Sioned Evans from Pontardawe talks about her own experiences of joining

“I have been an on-call firefighter for almost four years by now and I’ve been a wholetime firefighter at Pontardawe for nearly a year and a half and I’m loving every minute.

I have to note though, that you do not need to be an on-call firefighter to apply to become a wholetime firefighter.

When I was growing up, I sometimes used to watch Fireman Sam as a child, but I had no intention to have a career within the Fire and Rescue Service and, after leaving school, I went to university and studied art and graduated with a degree in art and graphics.

During my time as a student, I lived off pot noodles and I gained a bit of weight, so, after graduating, I joined a gym and got fit. Whilst at the gym, my personal trainer asked me if I’d ever considered joining the Fire Service… my answer was no! I thought you’d need a degree as a firefighter or some specific qualification to apply but, having been through the recruitment process himself, he said that wasn’t the case.

So, I decided I would go for it!

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Firefighter Sioned Evans at the Pontardawe fire station

The recruitment process involved a series of stages. The online sift stage is first, where you are presented with a series of statements and you must identify which ones you feel more relatable to.

The second stage is an online maths, English and mechanical test. If you pass these, you then progress to a bleep fitness test and an assessment of your physical ability, which includes a ladder lift, crawling through confined spaces, climbing a ladder and assessing if you can cope with heights.

My point of entry day, to assess my physical ability, at Earlswood (MAWWFRS Training Facility) was the most nerve-racking day of my life! There were a lot of noises going around, as it’s a training school, and I was the only girl and the smallest person there. I thought I wasn’t going to pass because there were grown men, who played rugby, that were failing some of the fitness and strength tests. So I thought, well if a big strong man can’t get in there’s no chance I will get in….but I did! I completed the tests within the requirements they were looking for and yes, it was an eye-opener, but I’ve never looked back.

It’s important to stress that men and women must pass the same level of fitness and physical ability. A house fire isn’t going to simmer down just because you’re a woman!

The next stage is an interview. There is loads of information online and in books that you can buy that will help you prepare and structure your answers, but in short, the interview panel want to know about you and how you have contributed within different scenarios, not what other team members have done.

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Training to become a firefighter

Once I had secured my place at training school, they took me right back to the basics and gradually built me and the other recruits up, starting with drill yard activities. Drilling is a big part of being a firefighter as it ensures that we stay on top of our training and perform to the best of our abilities in serving and protecting our communities.

Drilling activities include pitching ladders, working as a team, running hoses and learning the words of command – which sound alien at first but they soon become second nature to you. From there, you progress to training with breathing apparatus and fighting fires within buildings, learn how to navigate around buildings safely and how to use technology to help with firefighting activities.

Alongside the physical training, you also get to learn about the science behind firefighting, such as fire behaviour and predicting how an incident is likely to escalate.

But we’re are about more than just fighting fires at the Fire and Rescue Service. You are also trained to respond to road traffic collisions, animal rescues, water rescues, performing technical rope rescues and dealing with hazardous materials.

What qualities are best suited for a firefighter?

In my opinion, the main qualities that are needed to be a firefighter are the ability to solve problems, be emotionally intelligent, being able to work within a team, adapt to changes and being able to motivate yourself – especially when it comes to maintaining fitness.

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It’s important that we have people from a wide range of backgrounds within the Fire Service as it brings a wider range of expertise and experiences to the table when we are trying to solve problems as a team.

Emotional intelligence is so important to identify when someone may need your support, be it a casualty or a colleague following a tough job.

There is no set routine in the day to day role of a firefighter and the role itself is constantly evolving. One example of this is how Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service is assisting the Ambulance Service at medical calls and helping local health boards with the roll out of covid-19 vaccines.

What advice would you give to people thinking about applying?

Quite simply, If it scares you, go for it!

If you have butterflies in your stomach, it shows that you care and if you care enough you will prepare for it.

Don’t wing it during the application process. If you don’t know something, then don’t be afraid to ask, there is no such thing as a stupid question. Your entire career within the Fire Service is about development.

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If you feel lost in life, then don’t think this is something that you can’t do. It’s strange to say this, but had I not gone overweight in the first place, I would never have joined the gym to get fit, met my personal trainer and been encouraged by him to join the Fire Service.

I really love my job. It’s rewarding to be able to help people, who are often experiencing the worst day of their lives when we are called to their aid.

There’s also a sense of a second family within the Fire Service. You are often placed in a hard or scary situation with your colleagues, everyone gets scared at some point, but you’re in it together, boy or girl, to help each other out. You would do anything for your colleagues, and they would do anything for you. It’s part of the job to have each other’s back.

Is there an incident that stands out in your mind?

Naturally, there are many incidents that have stayed in my mind for many different reasons, be they being sad, difficult, happy or a job well done.

I remember particularly a water rescue, of two boys from a river. They were hanging, for their lives, from a branch within the river. It was a quick snatch rescue and we got there in good time. But the boys’ parents were so thankful and grateful…and I realised, gosh, we’ve just rescued their kids.

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We don’t expect a thank you for doing our job, but it is nice when people appreciate the work that you do.

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What is next for you in your career?

There are many different career paths within the Fire Service, such as community safety, training and people development, but I’ve definitely found my calling within the operational aspect of the role. I’m currently in the process of applying for an LGV driver’s licence so I can drive the fire appliance, which will present a different pressure and challenge that I want to take on and is another string to my bow.

Possibly, in the future, I would like to apply to become a Crew Manager, which will mean that I would be in charge of the crew at an incident. But for now, I want to have a few more years of experience under my belt as a firefighter.

What do your family and friends think of your job?

Well put it like this, my father cried at my pass-out parade, and in all my 27 years of existence, I have never seen my father cry. That was a really good feeling as I would like to think that, as parents, they could see I was doing what I love doing.”

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Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service’s Wholetime Firefighter application window opens 9th September 2021.

Firefighter Taster Days

To attend a Firefighter Taster Day or for further information about a Firefighter Taster Day, phone 01267 226839 or email personnel@mawwfire.gov.uk.

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Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service

New Chief Fire Officer for Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service confirmed

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Roger Thomas, current Deputy Chief Fire Officer, has been confirmed as the new Chief Fire Officer of Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service.

Following the announced retirement of Chief Fire Officer Chris Davies in September, Roger Thomas, who was appointed at an extraordinary meeting of Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Authority on 06 December 2021, will take over the role of Chief Fire Officer in April 2022.

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Councillor Elwyn Williams, Chair of Mid and Wales Fire and Rescue Authority said: “I am delighted to announce that our current Deputy Chief Fire Office, Roger Thomas, has successfully been appointed as our new Chief Fire Officer.

“Chief Fire Officer Chris Davies leaves our Service in April 2022 following an illustrious career and I speak on behalf of the Fire and Rescue Authority when I say that we have full confidence that Roger will take the reins and continue to drive the Service forward.

“We know that there are challenging times ahead, but we are confident that under Roger’s management, we will continue to address those challenges and maintain the high standards that our communities and partners have become accustomed to.”

Deputy Chief Fire Officer Roger Thomas said: “I want to extend my sincere thanks for the support and confidence of Members of our Authority in appointing me Chief Fire Officer of Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service, a position I am immensely proud to be undertaking.

“It has been an honour and a privilege to work with Chief Fire Officer Chris Davies, who during his tenure has shown outstanding commitment to the Service and the communities we serve.”

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Dyfed Powys Police

Eight assaults EVERY DAY on Welsh emergency workers in first six months of 2021

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Eight assaults every day were committed against Welsh emergency workers during the first six months of this year, new figures have revealed.

More than 1,360 assaults were committed in the six-month period from 01 January 2021 – 30 June 2021.

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They included kicking, slapping, head-butting and verbal abuse, and ranged from common assault to serious premediated attacks involving grievous bodily harm.

At least 21 incidents involved a weapon.

With Christmas fast approaching – the time of year when assaults traditionally spike – emergency workers are asking the public to treat them with respect.

Jason Killens, Chief Executive of the Welsh Ambulance Service, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has been a fraught time for all of us, but that’s no excuse to assault an emergency worker, who are normal human beings just trying to do a job.

“The run-up to Christmas means more people are out enjoying the revelry, and with alcohol consumption comes an increase in assaults, both physical and verbal.

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“There were 60 verbal attacks alone on our ambulance control room staff in the first six months of the year.

“We know it’s distressing when you’re waiting for help, but abusing our call handlers is not the answer – if anything, it could potentially delay help.

“On the road meanwhile, crews might have no choice but to leave a scene if their safety is compromised, and that’s not helpful for anyone, especially the patient.

“The debt of gratitude we owe to our emergency workers has never been greater, so we’re asking the public to work with us, not against us this Christmas.”

Almost half (47%) of assaults in the six-month period took place in South East Wales; Cardiff, Rhondda Cynon Taf and Bridgend are among the most prolific local authority areas.

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Offenders aged 26-35 account for the highest portion of offending (24%), while a third of incidents involved people under the influence of alcohol.

May 2021 saw the highest volume of assaults (281) as the hospitality industry re-opened in Wales after the second Covid-19 lockdown.

Since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, there have been at least 36 incidents where an emergency worker has been deliberately coughed at.

Assaults on police account for two thirds (67%) of the total number, averaging 152 victims every month in the six-month period.

Claire Parmenter, Temporary Chief Constable at Dyfed Powys Police, said: “Assaults on police officers continue to increase and this is completely unacceptable. 

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“Assault is a traumatic offence that causes great distress to anyone, and it is no different when the victim is an emergency worker.

“In September, we saw a man handed a 26-week prison sentence suspended for two years after he violently attacked two of our police officers who had gone to his aid.

“Concerned for his safety, they gave him a lift home – and in return both were physically injured.

“The psychological impact on both officers is something they will take time to recover from.

“In the same month alone, three officers carrying out their duties suffered injuries in an unprovoked attack at the hands of the man they were trying to arrest.

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“Despite the offender’s efforts, the officers were able to arrest him although they were left with injuries.

“The offender appeared in court the day after his arrest, where he was sentenced to 12 months in prison.

“Assaults such as these stay with the victims for the rest of their careers, and none of my officers and staff should have to go to work serving the public and be afraid of being assaulted.

“With the upcoming season of goodwill, please respect and protect our emergency workers.”

Although fewer in number – 22 incidents over the six-month period – March 2021 saw an unexplained rise in assaults on fire service colleagues, especially in South Wales.

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Chief Fire Officer Huw Jakeway QFSM from South Wales Fire and Rescue Service said: “Our emergency services work hard every day keeping the public safe and should not have to deal with abuse.

“Attacks on crews while protecting our communities and keeping people safe is completely unacceptable.

“Our blue light services come to work to serve and protect the public and the impact of such assaults can lead to life-changing consequences for those involved.

“This type of behaviour is, of course, carried out by a very small minority, and we once again thank our communities for their continued support in working with us this festive season to stay safe.”

Under the Assault on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act, the definition of an emergency worker includes police, fire and ambulance staff, as well as prison staff and NHS workers.

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Judith Paget, Chief Executive of NHS Wales, said: “Our emergency workers provide life-saving and life-changing care every day in often difficult circumstances.

“Our NHS staff are preparing for a challenging Christmas period so now, more than ever, they deserve to be treated with respect.

“Any form of attack on our emergency workers is completely unacceptable and we are doing everything we can to work with NHS Wales employers and our partner agencies to eradicate physical or verbal assaults on staff.”

Last week, UK Government announced that it was introducing a new law that will mean a mandatory life sentence for those who kill an emergency worker in the course of their duty.

The Ministry of Justice said it would aim to pass ‘Harper’s Law’ in England and Wales – in memory of Thames Valley Police PC Andrew Harper, who was killed in the line of duty in 2019 – as soon as possible.

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The With Us, Not Against Us campaign was launched in May 2021 by the Joint Emergency Service Group in Wales to try and reduce the number of assaults on emergency workers.

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Charity

New firefighters to take on epic Charity hose run in Swansea

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The latest class of firefighters, that will soon graduate and be deployed to serve communities across mid and west Wales, are due to take on an Everest of a task in order to raise money for the 2Wish charity and The Fire Fighters Charity.

This Friday, 3rd December 2021, a class of 30 new firefighters, recruited and trained by Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service, will attempt to run lengths of hose, a common yet physical exercise within the fire and rescue service, from the pier head of Mumbles to Tesco car park in Swansea Marina, Oystermouth Road – a distance that equates to the height of mount Everest.

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The new recruits are fundraising for 2wish and The Fire Fighters Charity

Group Manager Geraint Thomas, Head of Training Delivery for Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service said “Our newest recruits have trained hard over the last three months, at our training facility in Earlswood and at the Fire Service Colleague in Moreton-in-Marsh, and they certainly have not chosen an easy challenge to cap off their entry training into the Fire and Rescue Service.

They are raising money towards two excellent causes, so I would urge anyone who can spare a few pounds to support their cause. Good luck to them!”

To donate, visit the Recruits 2Wish Just Giving Page or Recruits Fire Fighters Charity Just Giving Page.

(Lead image: Martin Ellard / Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service)

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