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Fire Control Operator

My story: James Roberts

My name is James Roberts and I have been working for Avon Fire & Rescue Service as a Control Firefighter, based at our Fire Control Room in Lansdown, for nearly two years.

I’ve always had an interest in the fire service, as a lot of kids do, but never wanted to be a firefighter. My eyesight isn’t the best anyway so couldn’t go down that route even if I wanted to! It wasn’t until this job came up that I thought it would interest me. I remember watching ‘Fireman Sam’ and ‘London’s Burning’ when I was younger which definitely piqued my interest – I watch ‘Fireman Sam’ with my son now too!

I previously worked at Bristol Airport in their terminal control centre and had a lot of transferrable skills I could bring to this role. The work pattern at Bristol Airport was similar to the one at AF&RS so I was used to working night shifts.

I started in January 2021, during the Covid-19 lockdown, and attended training school. There was a lot to learn, and I found revising at home – with post-it notes up around the house – really helpful, especially when it came to testing my knowledge on a weekly basis. The next seven weeks was spent with our watch (Green Watch): answering as many phone calls as possible and learning from others. Everyone has their own way of doing it and it’s developing your own patter.

The most memorable call I took was from a person who was trapped in a house which was on fire, and she couldn’t get out. Luckily everything was fine – she managed to escape before crews arrived and safely pass her children down to neighbours from the double window in her bedroom. It was such a relief to know everyone was safe and knowing I played a part in it all.

Animal rescues, for instance cats up trees and cows in rivers, are something members of the public are still surprised that we attend. Ultimately, it’s another member of the family or someone’s livelihood and if we don’t help, as trained professionals, someone else may endanger themselves trying to save them.

If you’re interested in becoming a Control Firefighter, when applying, make sure you read the questions carefully on the application form and always have the Service values in mind when answering. You need to consider those transferable skills you have that you can bring to the role – I know it sounds obvious but being able to get out and talk to people is so important.

You need to make sure you’re comfortable with the shift pattern – it’s a sacrifice especially if you haven’t done it before. You’ll need to be a team player as well as being comfortable making your own decisions. You work so closely as part of a team, and everyone can bring their own life experiences to the organisation.

It's one of those jobs where no two days are the same and no two incidents are the same. Making a difference is what I enjoy most about working for AF&RS.