I'm not sure if this is something that I should vocalise or whether or not it should be shared with the world, but as I sit at home thinking about the other night at the Grenfell Tower, I feel like people might want to know how the incident went from the point of view of a firefighter who was sent inside while the tower burned all around us and how, after years of cuts to the service I work for, how I feel about what we do and how the past few years have been for us.
I've always been very proud of the job my colleagues and I do week in week out as part of the fire service. At times it's hard, at others not so much, but the uncertainty of what might happen is always there.
We are a funny bunch. We like to laugh to play jokes on each other. Sometimes we are silent and won't tell you what we are thinking. We laugh off the good natured banter directed at us from outside the service and mostly manage to do the same with the insults we get as public servants, even when it's not always easy to do so.
I think about all the occasions I've heard people on the news or on social media calling us lazy or greedy because we dared to show anger at the 1% pay rise we have had imposed on us year after year. While MPs sit in Westminster drinking and eating in subsidised bars and restaurants, while they make £100+ a hour on the tax payers' money, getting a 11% pay rise and increased pensions to go with it.
People think we have some sort of golden-plated, generous pensions. They are ignorant of the fact that we pay in over 12% of our wages every month. That's £300/£400 a month, every month! Or, that we are worse off now than we were 7 years ago. And we weren't well off then by any means.
And you know what? We will have to continue to do this extremely dangerous job until we are 60 years old! That is, of course, as long as they don't sack us because the physical strains of the work took their tolls on our bodies and we can't physically go on meeting the fitness standards any longer. Or maybe they will decide to move our pension age again, robbing hard-working men and women of tens of thousands of pounds they had planned for their retirement.
Imagine seeing all those images from that awful night, and instead of seeing lots of young fit firefighters able to recover quickly, ready to go again and again to save you, visualize 50- to 60-year-old grey-haired firefighters pushing their worn and broken bodies that have suffered through 40 years of service through the strains of the job, to the breaking point.