Firefighters - we are here for you

Oxfordshire firefighters’ film recalls the challenges of keeping residents safe during the pandemic

Residents can now rely on a more experienced and well-prepared fire service, thanks to the knowledge crews have gained while adapting to the challenges of the recent pandemic.  

That is the message from Oxfordshire County Council’s Fire and Rescue Service, described in a new short film, designed to highlight recent collaborations with other emergency services and showcase new ways of working over the last year.

The film is being used as part of the service’s induction and training resources. It will also be shared on social media to thank residents and show the broad range of community safety initiatives offered by Oxfordshire’s firefighters.

Gabby Heycock, Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service’s Area Manager, explains in the video that: “COVID-19 has been really challenging. Not only in the way we’ve had to respond to those emergencies we’ll always have to go to – using personal protection equipment and adapting our approach – but also, we’ve helped support our partners and organisations across the county cope with the challenges of the pandemic.

“We’ve done things like deliver laptops to schools and driven ambulances for South Central Ambulance Services. We have also used our managerial skills to set up testing centres. And we’ve done all that while maintaining an emergency service for the public of Oxfordshire.”

Local colleagues from various strands of the fire service appear in the film, including Peter Savage, from the home and community safety team. He explains how during the last year his team have visited homes of vulnerable, high-risk residents, giving them safety advice and support on how to reduce fire risks in their properties. Facemasks, hand sanitisers and safe distancing have been essentials when entering each home.

Firefighters Dave Bragg, Graham Reading and Antony Lampitt – based at Rewley Road Fire Station in Oxford – are interviewed, talking about the camaraderie between crews and how they have missed the routine interaction with communities, curtailed because of social distancing.

Pete Mackay, from the fire service’s prevention team, shares his experiences of working with the county council in delivering community testing. He proudly recalls how setting up the testing centres is something completely new to everyone involved: “A load of disparate people who haven’t worked together before,” uniting as a team to help save lives.

Becky Rimmer, Operational Watch Manager at Faringdon Fire Station, sums up the passion and determination of every firefighter: “I’m not a hero. It’s my job. I love it. For me, the job is all about going out and helping my community. That’s all I’ve ever wanted.”

And the community seems to appreciate Becky and her crew. She talks about them receiving cakes and fish ‘n’ chips from grateful residents! Becky describes this generously as “amazing”. And her close-knit team as a “second family”.

Gabby Heycock addresses residents directly, giving reassurance, in the closing sequence of the film: “During COVID, Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service has been working hard to keep you safe. As the pandemic hopefully comes to an end, we are still here for you.”

The film was produced by Stone Barrell, a creative agency based in Oxford.

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