TESTIMONY. My worst volunteer firefighting memories

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In France, 78% of firefighters are volunteers. Marion, too, decided to take part in this adventure a year and a half ago. For Planet, she looks back on her journey, her interventions, but also her best memories… As well as the less good ones. Testimony.

Marion. I entered the barracks in February 2021. It’s stupid, but when I took public transport and I heard that there was travel sickness, I felt bad for not being able to help. In college, I had taken the PSC1, so I knew first aid, but I didn’t feel legitimate enough to volunteer. I had done three cardiac massages on a dummy in my life, so I didn’t really see how I could be of any use…

Marion. I submitted my file in August 2020. I took a whole series of tests, such as motivational interviews, French and mathematics tests as well as physical tests. As I chose the first aid course and not the fire course, the physical evaluation consisted of light wrestling, obstacle courses with a weighted vest and weights… I chose the first aid course because physically the The other was more trying, and I knew I couldn’t hold it. Moreover, my motivations were really to be able to rescue people.

Marion. As far as on-call duty is concerned, 48 hours of availability must be given per month, divided into four 12-hour slots. The barracks chooses at least two of 12 hours each. Naturally, I can do more: some do ten, fifteen shifts a month… In August, for example, I did five. In addition to the guards, there are training, the distribution of calendars, then conviviality events: awareness days, stands, events at the barracks, open days…

If I wanted to be a volunteer firefighter now, it’s to give my time before building a family.

Marion. I hold two types of positions at the barracks. First, team member, so I take a place in a truck and I leave for intervention. But also stationary: it is the person who manages the organization of the barracks, who chooses who leaves in which truck, who answers the phone, contacts the head of the center in the event of a problem…

Marion. There are several types of intervention. I have very good memories of certain interventions, when we are faced with friendly people such as an elderly person who has felt unwell or has fallen and who just needed to discuss or exchange views. These people often offer us lots of things like cakes, which of course we refuse because we are not there to take gifts away. These are people who need a social bond and it’s nice to share a moment with them and to leave with the feeling of having offered them a moment of joy in their day.

Marion. Conversely, there are more stressful interventions, such as cardiac arrests where you have to go into robot mode and follow orders and what you have learned. You have to deal with death, the family around you, and when it’s on the public highway, the people filming or observing. The police who come to ask questions as well.

I also have bad memories of the interventions on children which are just as stressful and on which we can afford to show our emotions even less. I have the example of a baby who was choking: the parents gave us their child in panic, and there we must not show our stress, and the teammates must understand each other without talking to each other. Sometimes there are things you cannot say in front of the parents, especially if you think there has been neglect, for example.