My story: Amir Shafie-PourMotlagh
My name is Amir Shafie-PourMotlagh and I joined Weston-Super-Mare Fire Station, on Blue Watch, in August 2022.
Becoming a firefighter wasn’t always something I wanted to do but I did think I would be part of an emergency service in some way. I was born in Bath and moved to the USA in 2001. Growing up in Los Angeles, I made friends with firefighters and the stories of their experiences encouraged me to join. After moving back to the UK, I applied and didn’t get in the first time. It was sad but for one misstep during the recruitment process, I thought I would be doing myself a disservice if I didn’t try again, and I got in the second time.
I wanted to be part of a community, one in which I felt proud of and where I could help people. The role of a firefighter is interesting, unexpected and full of challenges – there’s no room for complacency as you’re learning something new every day. I worked as a Heavy Machine Engineer in LA and was able to apply a lot of my problem solving skills and practical knowledge to being a firefighter.
I found the recruitment process challenging, both physically and mentally. If I could go back and give myself advice, before taking any test, both physical and written, I would tell myself to take a brief moment to calm down and believe in yourself and what you’re capable of achieving. Make sure you put 100% into each step of the process, whether that’s stepping out of your comfort zone by visiting your local station and asking questions or improving your fitness as you go. If you’re confident, positive and willing to put yourself out there, it’ll definitely benefit you.
Training school, which was a great experience, got me to a level where I was able to learn and progress on station and it takes a lot of discipline to ensure I keep on track with my development. With the apprenticeship, I do find it easier to either take my written work away from station so I can concentrate or when on station, moving away from my colleagues and wearing earplugs to avoid distractions.
As an apprentice, my day to day is a lot different to a competent firefighter. As someone new to the watch, I do most of the checks – the daily, weekly and monthly routines – which is great from a learning perspective. We all do our breathing apparatus (BA) set checks, have time in the gym and then onto drills, which could be on station or perhaps Uphill Lake for a pumping exercise or practising using (BA) at the specialised rooms at Clevedon Fire Station. On top of that, we could be called to a shout. There’s not really any downtime – we’re always doing something. When it comes to night shifts, that does take some getting used to. I think, for me, it’s knowing that you can be called to a shout at any point in the early hours!
On my second day, we were called to a fire at a takeaway restaurant on Bransby Way in Weston. There aren’t many jobs where you get the same rush – you have no idea what that next shout is going to be! My heart started pumping when I saw the smoke on the way there and on arrival, I wasn’t nervous, just ready to do what I needed to.
This is the first time in my career where I’ve enjoyed coming into work. There aren’t many jobs where you’re called to serious incidents and you’re able to help those having their worst days. It’s challenging – taking a lot of discipline and ownership to learn and progress – but so rewarding.