September/October 2002

  Welcome to a new feature on


.... and hello from myself,
Sub Officer Stephen Wolstenholme
of Pudsey Fire Station.

This is the first of a series of monthly articles written by myself for the which I hope you will find informative and entertaining.

It was under sad, yet resolute circumstances, that this series of fire service topics came in to being. The day was 11th September, and I was attending the Pudsey ASDA supermarket in the afternoon, one year on from the atrocities, to present a wreath in memory of the firefighters who lost their lives and those they had hoped to save.

Amongst those present were Mary & Chris from and following the proceedings, they approached me to ask if I would be able to produce some articles for the web site. I couldn’t refuse. I have been in the fire service for over 23 years and have loved every minute of it and enjoy telling others all about it. To have the opportunity to write my own article for the people of Pudsey was irresistible.

It would also allow me to extend my important role of getting fire safety information in to the community. This role takes up more and more of my working day now as the job of the modern day firefighter becomes so much more diverse.

When I joined the service, back in 1979, the job was so much more physical – ‘kicking in doors and squirting water’ being the main criteria required. The last 10 to 15 years has seen the service take on many more specialist roles, becoming a lot more technical and requiring a greater range of skills.

 These demands have been placed on firefighters by the more demanding lifestyles which people now lead and the technological advances the public have come to expect. As the officer in charge of Blue Watch at Pudsey Fire Station, one of my responsibilities is to ensure the firefighters under my command are trained and ready to deal with anything which they may be called to attend – and I mean anything. It amazes me more and more at the diversity of subjects we need to be knowledgeable in, aside from ‘kicking in doors and squirting water’!

So far this month’s training has covered topics involving radiation, building construction, damming a local beck to accommodate our pumps, first-aid using oxygen and a defibrillator, rope rescue using mountain rescue equipment and two days breathing apparatus and back-draught training at the brigade training centre in Birkenshaw just to mention a few.

In between training and emergency calls, the decent weather has enabled us to get out and check the fire hydrants of Pudsey are clean and working. We have to check each hydrant at least once a year and as you will appreciate, it is much nicer to try and get these done during the summer months. Last year we had an extra work load of home risk assessments to carry out and this meant that the hydrant checks had to be carried out during the winter months – my crew were not too pleased!

I mention home risk assessments and these are the main stay now of our working day. We have found as a service that we can save as many lives by visiting the public in their homes and giving fire safety advice as by rushing through the streets and dragging people out of burning buildings. Whilst home risk assessments – HRA’s – are very effective in helping to prevent fires in people’s homes they are also a great way of meeting people in the community and this is another skill which firefighters have had to learn.

The communication skills required to convince some people how to be safe from fire are almost as diverse as the skills we need to rescue people from the vast array of emergencies we are frequently called to. In one home we attend there may be an elderly person living by themselves who is more interested in telling us about their pet than having smoke alarms fitted, whilst the next home is occupied by an academic person and their family who doesn’t feel that they need smoke alarms, as they are quite aware of the dangers from fire and are always very careful(!)

Now, let me invite you all to contact Pudsey Fire Station for YOUR free home fire safety check.
It may not be Blue Watch who answer when you call – it could be Red, White or Green, but I know that which ever Watch it is, they will all do a great job of looking after you.

Just ring 0113 257 4223 and ask for a home fire safety check to be carried out at a time convenient to yourself.

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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