My husband has been a firefighter since the start of 2019. It was a dream of his to become a firefighter and I was so happy to support him in becoming one of the community’s ‘heroes’. Quite honestly I had no idea how much life would change, more specifically my life, once he joined.
We have 2 young children. They were 4 and 6 when he joined and I work 28-30 hours a week too. Within 6 months I was feeling the strain. Firstly because he was away for 3 months for his recruits course. Secondly because once he started, the entry level pay was so terrible, he was having to do at least 2 – 3 overtime shifts a fortnight.
The stress was that he was also competing with others for these shifts who needed them to make ends meet as well so couldn’t always get these. He would be texting me at work, in the middle of my meetings, asking if he could take a certain shift on a certain day, I regularly have to try and compute all the things we are committed to to try and work out how much stress it would be on me to juggle an extra night, or and extra day with no help with getting the kids ready for school in the morning, commuting into town to drop them off in peak hour traffic, parking my car and getting to work then turning around to do it all the other way. He may have then picked up a night shift so I would have to come home cook the dinner get the kids sorted and into bed.
There are some weeks depending on where his 4 on 4 off cycle is where the kids and I barely see him for 3 days between night shifts and school days.
There’s no flexibility to start work a couple of hours late if the kids have like a medical appointment, it’s on me. Not to mention not being able to take holidays when others can, he has worked every Christmas since he started.
Then he comes home and tells me someone in his watch has committed suicide, or he’s had to do CPR for half an hour kneeling in blood or vomit only for the person to not survive. Or he’s had to console a hysterical wife or kids whose loved one isn’t going to make it, or he’s seen someone’s legs be obliterated in a car smash. Or when he was scared last week for his life responding to an electrical fire when they were riding one short in the back and he didn’t have the right tools to enter but just had to go in first anyway.
Thank god and touch wood he hasn’t had to deal with a kid or a baby yet… I know responding to these calls and shift work are part of the job but it’s got to be worth it, for everyone. The right tools, the right support, remuneration and benefits that reflect the nature of the job they do and how valued they are in their communities.
It is not right that a career firefighter sleeps in an asbestos or mould ridden station while the vollies down the road are barely at their multimillion $ new station. Or that an entry level firefighter earns less than the lowest paid administrator at HQ.
This organisation could be so great, so reflective of the key work they do keeping their communities safe. Why cant the powers at be at FENZ see that. Its hurtful, disrespectful and for some, downright heartbreaking.