Interview of a Volunteer Firefighter during the Covid-19

Here is a little insight on what volunteer firefighters do and what hardships they may encounter during this tough period of time!
By respect, I will not mention a name for this interview.

How long have you been a volunteer firefighter for?
– I’ve been engaged as a firefighter for almost a year now. I spent last summer passing all of my fire and rescue courses, so in September I was entirely trained and ready to go on almost all of the firefighter interventions.

Why did you want to become a firefighter?
– A lot of people dream of being a firefighter when they are little kids. For some, this dream lives on to when they are older and actually become firefighters, and for others, this dream dies away and is replaced by a new one.
– I actually never really thought about becoming a firefighter until one or two years ago, and it completely changed my life! I wanted to feel useful and help my community in any way that I could and the firefighters were the right choice for me. I discovered a whole new universe I never knew existed and immediately fell in love with it.

Does anything in this job scare you in any way?
– Well, first of all, if a firefighter says he or she is afraid of nothing, then I would be worried. Fear, as long as it is controlled, can be a good thing. Without fear, people can be completely senseless and not think of the consequences of their actions, thus causing them to get seriously hurt. A little bit of apprehension coursing through your veins: that’s what keeps you on your toes and reactive to everything around you.
– So yes, some things can scare me on the job, but it’s not going to stop me from doing it. I’m mostly thinking about big apartment fires or forest fires. Those are the most impressive and can be very dangerous if you’re not careful. Fire can be very unpredictable, so we have to be extra attentive. Most of the time, in intervention, adrenaline kicks in and you barely have time to think, you just act. The hardest part is after: when you go home, adrenaline starts to calm down and reality kicks in…
– But these are the risks of the job, and it’s what we’re here for!

What would you say was your most difficult experience as a firefighter?
– Well, a horrible experience I have to say I don’t have one yet. I haven’t been on very drastic interventions yet. I haven’t seen someone die yet, or seen what a huge accident can cause to people. I do know I will be confronted to these situations one day, but it just hasn’t happened to me for now.

During this confinement period, have many things changed for you as a volunteer?
– Well, because of the coronavirus, everyone is now confined at home and much less people are getting hurt. Our activity has thus decreased 30% since March, and it has even decreased even more in other cities. Since the confinement, we also have a lot more firefighters available to go on interventions.
– I live in a small village, so usually during the week we just barely have 3 people to take the ambulance. Now, we have around 15 people available during the week and almost 23 on weekends. This enables us to share the responsibilities of going out on intervention and the stress of the coronavirus. Everyone is as engaged as possible during this tough time.

What kind of additional personal protections do you have facing the coronavirus?
– As firefighters, we are all very well equipped facing the coronavirus. Each time we are called for a “respiratory distress”, we consider it a covid-19 suspicion and equip ourselves. We try to limit the number of people in contact with the virus, so only one team member equips themselves completely. The protections we have are: a tunic, a hygiene cap, glasses, an FFP2 mask and two pairs of gloves. Usually the chief accompanies the crew member equipped with a mask and gloves, but his exposition to the person needs to be limited, or else he decides to equip himself entirely as well. It really depends on the gravity of the situation, but we are as well protected as possible.

Have you noticed more difficulties during this tough period mentally to face certain interventions?
– Obviously, these aren’t regular times. Even during daily activities, or an occasional stop to the supermarket to buy vital necessities, we are all afraid of catching the corona virus. I think it is harder for some people than others. Some families have a family member at home who is more liable to catching it than others, more fragile (asthma etc.), and they don’t want to put them in danger. Such worries are very normal. Of course, it is mentally difficult for everyone, which is why we are very careful to limit the number of people exposed to the virus. And also why we are encouraged in the fire station to be as much available as possible. The more available we are, the more we can share the load mentally and make it easier for everyone.
– It is a rough time to go through, but once it will be finished, we will have done our part.

Why would you recommend someone to become a volunteer firefighter?
– I think that if you are physically fit, have free time on your hands, and want to help the community, becoming a volunteer firefighter is the way to do it. Having that feeling of being useful and saving lives … it’s something you can’t imagine until you live it, and it really is an amazing experience.
– Small villages or even big cities are always looking for new volunteers because they don’t have enough. As a firefighter, you discover a whole new world, and your colleagues become like a second family to you. As a teacher of mine once said: “Being a firefighter: it’s not just a job, it’s a passion.” Obviously, you can’t be sensitive to blood and have to be ready to confront bad situations, but in the end: it is all worth it. There are a lot of good moments too.
– Nonetheless, becoming a firefighter isn’t the only way you can help your community. Not everyone is fit for it and that’s okay. There are so many ways to show your love and support to others, all it takes is a small gesture!

10 ways to stay occupied during the Covid-19 confinement !

Through this tough period of confinement, here are some easy and fun ways to stay occupied and avoid boredom at all costs:

1) Keep your body active!

We may not be authorized to practice a sport in groups or meet up to go running or biking, but that doesn’t mean we have to stop practicing! We can still keep our body healthy and it is strongly recommended. What better way to fend off the virus?

Take your running shoes or your bike and go burn off some steam! It’s a first great start to getting your mind off of staying home all day, and especially gets you some fresh air.

As long as you’re alone and (don’t forget!) your authorization paper, you’re good to go! Who ever said confinement meant no physical exercise?

You can even have your own workout session right in your living room if you want! Try to keep things different and active every day and you won’t even remember why you’re in confinement.

2) Read a book!

Maybe it’s finally time to dust off one of those books off the shelf and get reading! How long has it been since you were supposed to read a book but never got around to it? Now is finally the time!

You might even be surprised at how fast you’re going to finish it and how much you will like it! You’re going to be looking for the next book to read in no time. And time sure does fly by when you’re into a really good book!

3) Everyone’s favorite: Netflix

How many series have you been putting off watching and now you finally have the time to? All of those great series your friends have been telling you all about, but you never got around to? Or maybe even a new documentary you want to see?

How to spend a great afternoon and relax? Time to wrap yourselves in a great big blanket, sit yourself on the couch, maybe even with a nice cup of tea in hand, and spend the afternoon in front of the TV!

So many amazing series just waiting to be discovered… all hands on deck!

4) Time to catch up the lessons you got behind on in class?

This is probably our least favorite topic, but also one of the most important ones. While some schools may have started the online schooling, not all of them have, so hooray we have an extra week or two of vacation!

But like all normal students, not everyone has been keeping up with all of their classes. Maybe you didn’t pay attention in a particular class or didn’t understand everything the teacher was explaining? Well now is the perfect opportunity to get on board and up to date! Especially since soon we will have to juggle online classes as well… so much fun to come!

5) Learn a new language!

Always wanted to learn another foreign language but never had the time? Well now you do! Why not make the most of it? There are plenty of free courses online you can take to learn the basics of any given language such as Spanish, German, Italian… maybe even Chinese or Russian? Apparently more and more people are taking these languages as they are the future of commercial interactions.

So if you want to widen your horizons, why not start now? Duolingo, for example, is a great app you can download and is a very easy way to start learning the basics! You start with new vocabulary words, basic conjugations, how to form a sentence… and the levels keep going. At the end of the confinement you’ll almost be fluent!

6) Confinement doesn’t mean we can’t socialize

Even though we are all stuck in our homes, it doesn’t mean we can’t have a social life or keep contact with our friends and family!

As we live in a world full of internet, everything is possible. We can still hang out with our friends, even hundreds of kilometers apart. Organize a video chat night, have a good laugh about our new living conditions, it’s almost like they are right there with you!

Give a call to your families, make sure everyone is okay and show them you are thinking of them. Every little action counts, and without free movement, keeping each other company from time to time is essential.

7) Play Games! Board games, card games…

Even if we do live in a world full of internet, it isn’t everything! You can have just as much fun playing a board game with a member of your family, or all together after work. Board games are a classic and sure way of having fun as a group and taking our minds off of our problems.  

Card games are also very diverting! And so many different games exist, try discovering new ones and learn them as a family. And if you are alone? You can play Solitaire! There is no way of getting bored at home if you really look for ways to stay occupied. There will always be something waiting for you.

8) Maybe it’s time to reconnect with your musical side?

Other possibilities to make your day better: put on some lively music in the house or learn to play an instrument. There is no reason for the house to be silent while we are all confined inside together! Maybe you have a piano at home or a dusty guitar you have always wanted to learn how to play. Now is the time to start! It may hurt your ears a little bit at first when you don’t get the notes right, but once you start getting it, you’ll never be able to stop!

And if you don’t have an instrument at home, that’s not a problem! You can even do music with two sticks or pens and do the drums. Though that might drive your parents crazy very quickly if you use them too much.

Have some fun!

9) Sunny outside? Time to get some air!

Although we are supposed to stay inside and have minimum contact with people, hopefully you possibly have a balcony or a small garden where you can escape to and go outside. Take in the beautiful sunlight while you still can and breathe in the fresh air. Nothing is stopping you from chilling on a chair outside and just bathing in the sun! You may even come back with a tan! Wouldn’t that be a surprise?

10) Learn to cook or bake!
Something else you can do during your spare time is finally learning how to cook real food! As students, our main dishes are based on spaghetti, rice or other carbohydrates, all easy and fast to cook. But maybe we can widen our horizons a little bit and stop being lazy and think healthy? There are certainly a lot of easy dishes we can make, but just never take the time to do them. We don’t have that excuse now, do we?

Baking is also a very good way to have fun! Preparing a nice dessert like crepes with Nutella or jam, a nice cake… And the best part about baking is you can do so much with such few ingredients! Look up a recipe on the internet or look through a book and try new things! I’m sure your families will be delighted to taste whatever you prepare for them…hopefully!

PS: Be careful not to gain too much weight with all of the delicious sweets or dishes at home! We all know how tempting they can be…