Dave Burton has been an On-Call Firefighter with Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service (LFRS) for more than three years now, but he never imagined that his job would lead him to volunteer for the ambulance service in the midst of a global pandemic.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, the National Health Service has been under immense pressure. At its peak in January, more than 4,500 COVID-19 patients were admitted to hospital in one single day.
During this time, Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service stepped up to help its emergency service colleagues by detaching staff from their usual duties to become Urgent Care patient transport workers for the East Midlands Ambulance Service (EMAS).
Within the first national lockdown, from April to July 2020, 12 firefighters took on the additional role of volunteering to drive and crew Urgent Care Patient ambulances. Shifts were allocated monthly on an ad-hoc basis and the firefighters continued within their primary roles for the fire service at the same time. Completing 81 shifts and helping more than 200 patients, their contribution during this unprecedented time was nothing short of exceptional.
Things worked a little differently in the second lockdown, and from November 2020 to April 2021, four on-call firefighters temporarily hung up their fire kit and donned their PPE to help transport patients in need of care. During this time the volunteers completed 198 shifts between them, totalling more than 2,000 hours of work.
One of those volunteers was Dave Burton from Ashby Station.
He said: “My main reason for volunteering was being able to help wherever possible and do my bit during the challenging lockdowns. I had recently been put on furlough from my full time job, meaning I was in a good position to offer assistance as I had a lot of free time. I noticed the email on the Monday morning asking for volunteers and within two hours I had received a phone call about making further plans going forward.
“Most of all I enjoyed meeting new people every day. I found that a little bit of humour goes a long way and most people are happy to see you with a smile, even if they are heading straight to A&E. Initially the volunteering was difficult to settle into but from November I began working for EMAS in a full time secondment. Because of the amount of time spent there since November we were able to become familiar with our role meaning that I could learn a lot quicker and then give better care to patients.
“I learnt that everybody is different. Although we were attending incidents and patients with the same conditions on paper, we couldn’t assume that everyone was going to react the same. You have to get to know every patient to make sure you can give the best individual care.
“I never felt out of my comfort zone, but I did find it difficult when skills were needed that were out of my remit. I found that it made me want to learn more and develop my skills and knowledge.”
Dave’s volunteer role came to an end in April and since then, he’s quickly adjusted back to his On-Call Firefighter duties as well as taking up a new role as an arborist.
He added: “Initially it was difficult to get used to the pager going off at 2am in the middle of the week again but I’ve soon settled back in. I’m glad to be back focusing on being a firefighter. I think it’s been a great experience for myself and there’s plenty of transferable skills that I’ve been able to cross over into my work as a firefighter. Due to working with EMAS it has helped me open up different avenues within LFRS. I’ve now become a work place trainer at Ashby station for Emergency and Trauma Care after gaining my FREC 3 qualification.”
Callum Faint, Chief Fire and Rescue Officer at LFRS, has been leading the Service throughout the pandemic. He said: “The role our EMAS volunteers have played during the past year has been nothing short of inspirational.
“At a time where the NHS, and the country as a whole, so desperately needed support, Dave and his colleagues stepped up to help. We are incredibly proud of them for their efforts and as a Service we feel honoured to have been able to support our emergency service colleagues.”
David Williams, Deputy Director of Operations at EMAS echoed those sentiments: “We are incredibly grateful for the support of our colleagues from the Fire and Rescue services across the region in what has been a difficult time, helping to support our staff and patients who need us the most.
“For a number of years now, we have worked very closely with our Fire and Rescue service colleagues at the many multi-agency incidents we attend, and in our blue light collaboration at some of our stations, so this extra support has built on the great relationship we have with the fire service.
“A big thank you to all who have again volunteered and stepped forward to help.”
Notes to Editors:
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About the Service
Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service provides emergency response, prevention and protection services from 20 stations across Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland. Its headquarters is based in Birstall, Leicester.
During 2019/20, we attended a total of 8,541 emergency incidents, including 2,079 fires and 748 road traffic collisions. A total of 7,274 Home Safety Checks were completed and we fitted 4,720 smoke alarms. 305 schools were visited as part of the Service’s schools programme, delivering fire and road safety education to 26,218 pupils. Staff organised or took part in 1,218 community safety activities, totalling over 11,000 hours of time engaging with members of the public.
The Service’s prevention, education, enforcement and inspection programmes have resulted in significant reductions in the number of incidents. In the last ten years, fire-related incidents have reduced by over 30 percent.
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