Local hero firefighter Michael Maw saved the life of a pensioner trapped in a blazing house, by giving her his breathing mask. The 48 yr old hero sprang into action as a fire raged in Mrs Joyce Parkers’ home in Brander Approach, Gipton, Leeds. Firefighters rushed to the house which was just 100 yards from the station.
Mrs Parker recalled the fateful day of the fire, ‘I was hanging out of the bedroom window trying to get some air. I suffer from asthma and couldn’t breathe because of the smoke. ‘ Michael found Mrs Parker on the bedroom floor, the room was filled with dense smoke. he removed his own breathing apparatus and gave her some oxygen. He dragged her to the top of the stairs and out to safety with the help of other firefighters. Unfortunately Mrs Parkers husband Harry lost his life in the fire.
Michael father claimed he was no hero, ‘it was just one of those things. It is what I was there to do’. Though Michael suffered himself with the effects of the smoke and was off work for 5 days. He was taken to hospital in the same ambulance as the woman. Sub officer Ronnie Barker said, ‘If it wasn’t for Fireman Maw’s actions that lady would have almost certainly have died.’
As a result of his brave and selfless actions that day, Michael was awarded with a commendation and letter of appreciation from the Chief Fire Officer at a ceremony at Gipton station.
In an interview with us Micheal told us many stories including the daily life, the pranks, the hardships and the losses.
“It was hard sometimes we saw some terrible things my friend and colleague Mitch Brent took his own life after the trauma of working with the fire service, after a road traffic accident he hung himself at Harewood House. You had to become slightly thick skinned but some call outs were worse than others and the memories stayed with you.
Sproggs were rookie firefighters and assigned to more experienced staff.
“Station Officer Jim Raw gave me a pep talk on my first shout… “Stick with me, where I go you go” … that’s how it was and then I knew I had graduated when we were called out to Compton Road and a 2 storey furniture warehouse and SO Raw said to the sprogg “you go with him (Mike), you don’t leave him, he’ll show you the ropes” That poor sprogg didn’t know what had hit him, he came out that day sweating and exclaiming how do you do that? I knew then that I knew what I was doing when they trusted me with a sprogg!”
Mike used to trial new equipment and uniform and report on their suitability, function, efficiency, how hard wearing etc.
Peak times in the 80s and 90s were Mischief Night on the 4th November and Bonfire Night on the 5th.
Often calls were made about a car fire and when the crew arrived they were pelted by petrol bombs and bricks. “ I remember an incident at Wykebecks where the call came that there was a car on fire under a railway tunnel, when we arrived it was an ambush, bottles, bricks were thrown”.
Harehills and Chapeltown were classed as front line, one mischief night the retained firefighters, mainly miners, were called out with the Gipton Commando’s. “ It was like world war III, the miners would set too with pick axes on the rioters, they gave them short shrift”.
Micheal moved to Wetherby for the last few months of his service and dealt mainly with the road traffic accidents and fire prevention.