THERE’S a burning in my forearms. In each hand is a roll of red fire hose. There’s wriggle-room in the steel capped boots on my feet and the bright yellow fireman’s helmet is surprisingly light on my head.

I’m at Drove Road fire station on a grey June day to be put through my paces by Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service’s Sam Pyne.

The 28-year-old supports all the retained firefighter crews in Swindon, Royal Wootton Bassett and Cricklade. And the Wiltshire man knows first-hand what it’s like to be an on-call firefighter, serving as crew manager for the volunteer section at Malmesbury fire station.

This weekend, he is organising a have-a-go day at Swindon’s town centre fire station for anyone interested in finding out what it takes to become an on-call firefighter.

Those attending the event on Saturday, between 10am and 2pm, can try the kit carry – an essential fitness test that will see them haul hoses and other firefighting equipment over a 25 metre course. They can take on the ladder climb, scaling the rungs, locking their legs in the ladder, leaning backwards and looking over their shoulder to read a number on the ground below.

The would-be firefighters can try on crew members’ breathing apparatus, as well as find out what it’s like to cut an accident victim out of a crashed car.

“You’ll be surprised at how well you might do,” said Sam.

“It’s always worth giving it a go – and that’s the whole point of the day. We’re not there to catch anybody out. We just want more on call firefighters.”

As someone who cycles to work most days, I’d like to think of myself as reasonably physically fit. But as I walk hoses of different lengths and a 30kg dumbbell over the 25m course in the Drove Road parade ground, I can feel myself panting slightly for breath. Luckily, Sam spares me from doing the ladder climb.

I might be fit enough, but residence requirements would stop me from signing up. To be an on-call firefighter you need to live five minutes away from your local fire station, pass a host of fitness and aptitude tests, and push yourself through a smoke-filled tunnel wearing full kit and breathing apparatus.

the rewards of being an on-call firefighter are significant, said Sam, who joined the Malmesbury retained section six-years-ago: “It’s a great way to support your community.”

He rolls his eyes when he mentions that, on school visits, he often gets labelled Fireman Sam after the children’s TV character: “I wasn’t necessarily looking to get a career from it. It seemed like a good way to do something interesting and learn new skills.

“Most kids when they’re growing up want to be a firefighter. And, now, it’s nice to work for an organisation whose only goal is to help people.”

The retained firefighters get sent to all the same incidents as their full-time colleagues. Sam said: “Three or four years ago we were at a flooding incident in Wiltshire. Then, we got called by control to go to a house that had been struck by lightning.

“We were the closest appliance, but it still took us 15 to 20 minutes to get there.

“Normally, when you see a house fire it’s one room or the roof on fire. This house was going top to bottom. This was at about two or three in the morning. It’s not what you really want to see.”

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