Getting cut out of a car by firefighters was a memorable experience.
Crawley firefighters hit me with the pleasant surprise during my visit Crawley Fire Station.
Memories of my time as a retained firefighter came flooding back as I put on a fire suit for safety.
Then it was off to the car. Sitting behind me, Lee Burridge, 32, from Red Watch guided me through the experience while his team made short work of the car.
The windows were smashed, the driver’s door removed with heavy hydraulic tools and the roof was flipped over after its supports were sawn and crushed.
Although this was purely training, it was easy to imagine the how horrifying it must be for accident victims as they wait in their mangled car for rescue and I appreciated the importance of Lee’s role.
John Convey, 43, Crawley’s Red Watch commander, explained that teamwork was the backbone of the fire service; it was good to see it being put into practice.
John had been in the service for nearly 20 years and still remembered his first call-out on Christmas Day 1995.
The father-of-two said: “I was excited, nervous, looking around and couldn’t believe that I’d actually made it to be sitting on a fire engine with blue lights. It was a dream.
“Their cooker was on fire with the Christmas turkey.
“Luckily the only damage was the turkey.
“We stayed a little while and put them at ease; the kids were there.”
John explained how the initial days of a firefighter’s career were very important as they earned the trust of their colleagues and learned to trust them in turn.
As for the future of Crawley Fire Station, he said he wanted the crews to be more involved in the community.
He said: “Firefighters are passionate about the fire service – we want to serve, help and educate the community we work with.
“We want them [Crawley people] to understand that this is a community fire station.
“The door is always open if people want help, advice or want to talk to us.”
Eight volunteers were recruited at the station recently to help spread the message across Crawley.
John said his station received the best response for the roles in West Sussex. He thanked the “willing people of Crawley”.
Crawley firefighters are split into four watches that operate on a two-day and two-night shift pattern. Each has posts for a watch commander, one or two crew managers and ten firefighters.