December 2002

  Welcome to the December article in this new series on


.... and hello yet again from
Sub Officer Stephen Wolstenholme
of Pudsey Fire Station.

One of the things I enjoy about being in the fire service is the fact that something out of the ordinary always happens when you least expect it.  Even on my days off, because I am a firefighter, I can end up becoming involved in things that others would perhaps standby and watch. 

Two such occasions arose recently, both of which involved me helping to try resuscitate people.  In last monthís article I mentioned I would be attending the Remembrance Parade at Pudsey cenotaph to place the wreath from the fire service.  During the parade, the army officer who had been directing the parade suddenly collapsed.  I learned afterwards that he had had a heart attack.  Myself and fellow Pudsey firefighter, Brian Bramma rushed to where the man had fallen and carried out mouth to mouth and cardiac compressions until the ambulance arrived. 

The second incident occurred some weeks later whilst I was on picket duty outside Pudsey fire station when a person stopped their car and told me that a woman had fallen off the footbridge which crosses the ring road at Farsley by Preisthorpe School.  Myself and the other members of Blue Watch immediately got on the fire engine, left the picket line and drove to give medical assistance to the poor lady.  The professionalism of my crew came through, as within seconds they had switched from a group of fellas jovially waving to passing motorists, to a life saving emergency team ready to apply all their skills and courage.  We arrived at the scene within seconds, as the bridge is not far from the station.  In fact I had just finished ringing 999 for an ambulance on the fire engine mobile phone as we pulled up.  (I had to use the phone because whilst we are on strike we donít have any radio facilities available).  West Yorkshire firefighters are trained to a high level of first aid and whilst the rest of us started using a defibrillator, Leading Firefighter Malcolm Nelson and Firefighter Darren Flynn began trying to revive the lady.  When the paramedics arrived they took over using their specialist skills and equipment whilst we prepared a stretcher for them to transport the lady to hospital on.  This stretcher is called a spine-board and we use it in conjunction with special neck collars.  Every fire engine in West Yorkshire carries these boards and collars and all firefighters are trained to use them.  Whilst a lot of the first aid skills firefighters now have are quite technical and require the use of specialist equipment, the knowledge of mouth to mouth and cardiac compressions are quite straight forward and is something almost anyone can carry out to save life.  I recommend that everyone learns this important skill and suggest that you contact your local branch of St Johnís Ambulance to find out about classes in the local area.

Anyway, to move on to more cheerful things Ė


Depending on when you are reading this, letís hope you enjoy it, or letís hope that you did enjoy it!  Being a big kid at heart I love Christmas and even though money will be short this year due to lack of pay during the strikes, my family and I will still enjoy ourselves.  For us at the Wolstenholme household Christmas is much more than expense and over indulgence, it is about being with family and reliving the magic of Christmas which we enjoyed when we were kids.  In fact this year we will be having Christmas on Boxing Day as Blue Watch are working nights on the 24th and 25th of December.  Fortunately my two teenage daughters are now old enough to wait until I get home from work before Santa arrives so we can all open our presents together!

Well, enough chat, as ever I canít waste a good opportunity to talk about fire safety issues, even at Christmas, so here are some important points for you to be aware of so that hopefully your Christmas and New Year arenít spoilt by fire.  There are 4 main areas for concern and I itemise these below for your reference:


Decorative lights fitted to trees and elsewhere should be checked to ensure that there are no missing bulbs or loose wires. The plug should be fitted with a 3amp fuse and the lights should be unplugged at bedtime or other times when they are not in use. 

Non-combustible decorations should be used in preference to combustible decorations made of paper, etc. Where paper decorations are used they should be kept well clear of fires.


Open fires should always have a guard fitted.  Mirrors should never be placed above any type of fire because they encourage people to move too close to the fire risking setting their clothes alight. Chimneys and flues should be swept at least once every six months.  Portable heaters should be sited away from furniture and furnishings, in a position where no objects can fall on them. It is wise to fix them in place so that they cannot be knocked over.

  • Electric fires should be unplugged at night.

  • Never leave children alone in a room where there is a portable heater.

  • Matches and lighters should be kept well away from children.


Real candles should not be used to decorate a Christmas tree. Where candles are used the following advice is given.

(a) Fix candles securely on to a stable, non-combustible base.

(b) Keep lighted candles out of the reach of children.

(c) Keep lighted candles away from curtains, decorations and other flammable materials.

(d) Extinguish candles before retiring for the night.


Do not be tempted to `borrow' the smoke alarm battery to use in a present. Without its battery a smoke alarm is useless and you would be at a much greater risk from the effects of a fire.

Never drink and fry. In West Yorkshire half of all chip pan fires causing injury or death happen between midnight and 4am.

You can find more fire safety advice on the West Yorkshire Fire Service web site, just click on the link below.

Well thatís it for this month.  I look forward to writing you another article in the New Year, when hopefully the fire service dispute will be over and we can all start the year in better circumstances!

  Last months article..... Click here

Finally, as ever, let me encourage you to make sure that you and your families are as safe as possible from fire. The easiest way to do this is to arrange for a free home fire safety check, or if you are an employer maybe you would like to arrange for someone to call to help you with your work place risk assessment.

Pudsey Fire Station number is 01132 2574223.

If you want to get in touch with me regarding anything to do with the fire service, drop me an email via

Visit the web site of the West Yorkshire Fire Service where you will find more information and links.

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