Gentle Mocking

Long term readers may have noticed that when I write about the London Fire Brigade I often indulge in some slight mocking. It's an attitude that is taught to you in training school and one that is continued by the 'old hands' of the service.

When you start in the ambulance service you find yourself asking why this is so, surely it can't just be because they often get to sleep all night while we get moaned at if we find ourselves blinking for longer than necessary?

After all, when dealing with an RTA, they are instrumental in turning a car into a convertible so we can safely get a patient out. Likewise, when something is on fire they are pretty good at throwing water at it.

The less charitable amongst us might also say that they are also experts at blocking off roads with a multitude of unnecessary appliances and flooding the streets with fire-fighters who then stand around and do nothing.

Maybe it follows that there is this derision because they work less than us, get paid more than us and for some reason end up on calendars and are drooled over by otherwise sensible young ladies.

So, jealousy really.

My crewmate and I were sent to a 'fire call' in a residential street – we arrived to find that the fire had already been put out, three fire trucks and about 12 fire-fighters had successfully dealt with an electrical fire that had caught a mattress alight. Our patient had been laying on the mattress at the time.

Surprisingly, for someone with very much reduced mobility, he'd managed to get himself out of the burning bed and into another room. Relatives had then called for the fire-fighters but by the time they arrived the fire had gone out itself causing minimal damage.

Our patient was more 'shook up' than seriously ill. He was a large fellow with a number of long-standing medical problems, including lung disease and the aforementioned mobility problems. As it was a foam mattress that had burned we decided to take the patient to hospital.

Meanwhile the dozen fire-fighters milled around chatting to the extended family of the patient, or stood on the pavement taking in the sun.

Then I heard the head fire-fighter (the one wearing a white helmet) suggest to the family that they could all stand for a cup of tea. As she left to start brewing he confided in me that it 'keeps them busy, and takes their mind off the fire', which is fair enough.

We soon got to carrying our large patient to the stairs where his installed stair-lift could do some of the hard work of getting him down from the upper floor of the house. It was a real struggle – the patient was large as well as heavy, and despite having leapt from his bed before he torched himself, now seemed largely unable to move.

So we puffed and we sweated and we strained – getting him downstairs and back onto our carry chair.

Then we had to move out of the way so that one of the women of the house could carry a tray full of tea out to the heroic fire-fighters that were chatting in their garden.

We left the house with every fire-fighter having their own cup of tea – can you guess what poor bastards didn't get a cup of tea? Yes, that's right, those of us actually doing some work.

Not that we would have accepted, we were looking after a patient after all, but it would have been nice to have been offered.

As I say, pure jealousy.


It seems that whenever I'm not working I miss all the excitement. Actually, having been involved in a few riots in the past, I'm rather glad that I wasn't working – for one thing I don't think that my stab vest still fits me.

22 thoughts on “Gentle Mocking”

  1. Last time I spoke to our local fire fighters they were complaining because they might be getting their beds taken away from them and being given la-z-boy chairs instead. All I can say is boo-hoo. I'm lucky to catch some z's and if I do its on chairs that don't recline.

  2. A few years ago my neighbour fell asleep leaving his chip pan on. Somehow me and the neighbour managed to put the fire out ourselves, and I had re-entered the very smokey living room to rescue his kittens. The Landlord decided to call the Trumpton out just to be safe. They arrived, gave us a ticking off for tackling the blaze ourselves (fair enough really) and sent 2 of the youngest fire men into the house to pull the kitchen apart completely just to make sure it wasn't going to catch fire again.I then offered to make the tea, everyone accepted and I spent the next half and hour boiling the kettle more times than it had been boiled in it's life and running around with a bowl of sugar.

    It has occurred to me now that not only did I end up making them lots of tea, I was the one that put the bloody fire out in the first place.

    I am such a Muppet.

  3. The only time an ambulance has ever been to our house (transport job, gran was very anaemic) I scoured the cupboards looking for some disposable cups so I could make them a cup of tea, since I imagine they couldn't really stay about and chat with our mugs…Are you allowed to accept stuff like that? Or is it one of those “Must remain professional and politely decline”?

    Couldn't find any cups, by the way πŸ™

  4. I would have thought trumpton were far too busy having their picture taken for next years hero calendar to do silly mundane things like…….putting fires out.Seriously though they are the experts at what they do no matter how rarely they do it and generally things are friendly at jobs I go to with them. (I'm a copper by the way). The strikes however did them no favours at all when squaddies freshly back from war zones had to cover for them for only half the dosh a fire fighter gets. Absolutely disgusting behaviour by most of trumpton and quite rightly they went down in the estimations of most.

    As for sleeping on nights, ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha, no chance for the police I'm afraid.

  5. Lol, you could always take a quality of life cut and go to the Highways Agency, our on road guys get to sleep on nights.Personally the only time I managed to fall asleep at work was on an early turn, got into loads of trouble.

  6. Give them their due it must be really hard to have to go and fight a fire after spending a long time in bed being paid to do nothing. No wonder there are so many retained trumptons nowadays.

  7. As much as i dislike trumpton for all the above reasons they are generally quite good on my patch. Although at an RTA today they 'made safe' the vehicles involved, ie covers to stop airbags being deployed unnecesasarily and disconnecting they battery. After that all that hard work they wiped their brows and cracked open bottles of water.As for your scenario Tom next time all you need to is question their ability to carry heavy things and voila, they have the patient carried down in no time as they won't allow their ego's to be dented. Works for me every time.

  8. When I worked in ambulance control I didn't like trumpton because their control staff were miserable buggers, questioning the relevance of the patient's airway on one occasion! The patient had been pulled from a burning building – yes, I think the crew would like to know if their patient is breathing!Now, however, I just enjoy looking at them – why is it that trumpton are always so drop dead gorgeous? I've seen many an ugly copper and even paramedic, but never an ugly fireman. Hmm…

  9. I admire them because they are strange creatures, fire fighters. For every other thing, whether human or animal, the instinct is to get as far away from fire as fast as possible. (And if not it should be). Yet they somehow manage to find these people who are willing to run towards it.I admire and appreciate all the emergency services (I'm a policeman's daughter) and acknowledge there is no way I could do any of your jobs, but when it comes to visible heroics I'm afraid firefighters have the edge.

  10. That is too funny!Well done for thinking of the kittens too. As a cat owner myself I'm always happy to hear about animals getting rescued too.

  11. Being based on Fire stations because our service was a Fire and Ambulance Brigade, we used to say as they got turned out. 'Trumpton on its way, to every turn out a burn out'

  12. I, unfortunately being one of the otherwise sensible girls who tends to drool over fire fighters, had the unfortunate experience of having to not-so-gently correct one of them on a scene. We were at an MVC and one car had a mother and her 4 children in it. The kids were fine, but she was complaining of neck pain, so a fireman was holding c-spine while she sat on the curb. Just as I was walking up to them, I heard her say “I have to see my kids!” What did this fire fighter do, but allow her to stand and rotate her body (while he “held good traction”). Being a student, I debated for a millisecond about telling him that he was an idiot, decided instead to ask “what the hell are you doing?”, take over c-spine and make him run and get the collar for me. Not very professional, but I was pretty shocked at his behavior, as our local fire fighters are all required to have and maintain their EMT-Basic certification, and should know better.Most of the time, our fire department is extremely helpful, but there are those days…

  13. Completely off subjuct but a question for Tom (and any others who may want to answer it). This morning from about 12.30 to 1.40 I was in the bathroom with my mum who was having quite a bad nose bleed that just wasn't stopping, no matter how long she pinched it for. I was there keeping her calm and trying to remember what to do with heavy nose bleeds from my hours of reading first aid books (I find them interesting for some reason). What I could remember was something to do with if its heavy or lasts longer than a certain time she should go to hospital but I couldn't remeber what that time was. Being only 16, I'm not old enough to drive yet so she is the only person who can drive in the house, but she would not have been able to drive the 7 miles or so to the hospital, so if she needed to go to hospital, I would have needed to call an ambulance but I was reluctant to do so. So for about an hour I was sitting next to my mum trying to cheer her up a bit by reading some of the funnier posts from Blood, Sweat and Tea. (As an aside, Tom, if you bring out a 3rd book, are you going to call it something like 'Even More Blood, Even more Sweat, And A Whole Flask of Tea'?)The nose bleed did eventually stop but the question is, Should I have called an ambulance, knowing my luck that just before it arrived the bleed would have stopped and we both would feel embarrased, or did I do the right thing by leaving it and watching her to make sure that she didn't get any worse?

  14. I fondly recall working with the 'window cleaners' complete with their lovely red appliances.We spent little time with the fire service off duty, but despite the technical ability at transforming cars into topless run-arounds, I have to concede that they had to earn their beer tokens.

    The police on the other hand competed ferociously in the selling of tickets for a do. I have a very hazed up memory from attending a police 'knees up' followed shortly by a service do, about both of which I have very little memory.

    I respect the fire service, but loved the police, as they actively looked out, and liked the 'blood buggy' bodes.

    PS MY fire-fighter mate who I played darts with, was somewhat contemptious of our service til he fell and # his clavicle. Suddenly, he and his watch loved us. Or was that the entonox?

  15. Basic rule of thumb for nosebleeds:Lean forward, pinch nose for 10 minutes (don't keep checking to see whether it's stopped!). If it's still bleeding, pinch it for another 10 mins. Check again, if it's still bleeding, pinch it for another 10 mins. At this point, it's now been 30 minutes since you started: if it's still bleeding, the casualty needs to go to hospital. In your case, you wouldn't necessarily need an ambulance – calling a taxi might have done the trick.

    If you've got a copy of the First Aid Manual that's issued by St John Ambulance/St Andrew's Ambulance Association/Red Cross, nosebleeds are covered on p125 (9th edition).

  16. Boy do I know how you felt πŸ™‚ my 8 year old daughter had a similar nose bleed on a fight to America. After 45mins I was thinking 'Is there a Dr on board?' it stopped but not until she had filled up two carrier bags with little bloody tissues.For what its worth I think that you would have been within your rights to call an ambulance, I've no medical experience but I don't think that Tom or any of his colleagues would have thought you were wasting their time.

    BTW the best way that I have found of stopping them is to pinch the nose really hard and push upwards and don't let go for at least 5mins.

  17. you say they get paid more than us. I disagree. Obviously it depends whether you are a tech or Para and when you qualified but I earn more than a qualified FF. And that's without my 25% unsocial.

  18. thanks all for the answers, at least I know what to do next time! :)AF, I remeber having a nose bleed coming back from colorado, it wasn't that bad but I remeber the steward panicing and throwing tissues in my direction even though I didn't need them. At least I had plenty of tissues for the next week or so!

  19. Its never easy for dealing for someone with a nosebleed, as sometimes you get some people who will stick their noses in whilst you are trying to treat. I normally find a way around this… I firstly would remove the casualty from the room into another room and sit them down then, I would get down to treating them in the standard way.. it is not something you would consider calling 999 for, unless if it was a serious bleed or if there was a fracture involved…

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