THE FIRE TUNIC
I started my Fire Service career in December 1970, this date was my enrolment date however I did not start my official training until January 1971, although a little vague now some 42 years later. I remember attended Park Street Fire Station, Leeds for the selection process which covered basic maths and English tests followed by practical tests which included running a length of hose, carrying a man on my back for several yards, climbing a 35ft ladder and taking ‘leg lock’ releasing my hold on the ladder to show ‘hands free’. Having met the required standard, kit was issued. My brigade number under Leeds City Brigade was 993, later to be changed to 724 when Leeds City was merged with west Riding Fire Service under local Authority re-organisation in 1974 to become West Yorkshire Fire Service.
My training took place at the training school attached to Gipton Fire Station, Leeds 9. The course was over a three month period covering all aspects of Fire Training Service training. Having successfully passed the training to the level required I was attached to Gipton Fire Station as a probationary fireman and was very proud.
The majority of my career was at Gipton Fire Station (page 14, Gipton Fire Station 75th Anniversary programme, that’s me 3rd from the left on the back row) attended all manner of incidents from major house and factory fires to Special Calls (incidents not involving fires) and yes I did get the cat out of the tree amongst other incidents. Gipton at that time had two pumps and one turntable ladder. (2pumps and TL)
After several years at Gipton Fire Station I gained promotion to the rank of Leading Fireman and posted to Kirkstall Road Fire station housed specialist vehicle including ‘Simon Snorkel’ a hydraulic platform appliance which, when fully extended could reach a height of 85ft quite an experience when fully extended.
1977 saw the Fire Brigade Union Strike. The words of the union Officials still resonate in my head, the mere threat of a strike will make the government give in to our demands, not so, thirteen weeks later we were back manning the pumps with a favourable deal.
In 1984 I decided to leave the fire station to go back to Civvy Street and work for a local funeral director. The change in career brought me to early retirement at the age of 61.
During my time in the service I enjoyed every minute making life-long friends and acquaintances.
The Tunic was mine, I had the option to purchase the item when I left the service.
Written by Eric Bell Sept 2107.