We cannot say that the job of a firefighter-rescuer is easy or absolutely safe for health. This is a daily work with fire, accidents, human injuries and even fire deaths…
However, in 4th SFRU of Lviv, they eagerly told me about pleasant professional moments. For example, they told me about the rescue of cats from parallel houses where the flats burst into flame simultaneously. Also, they have shared a secret, whom and for what they put a brick into the bag at the end of the shift.
This is Andrii Velykyi. He is only 24, however, behind him there have been already a lot of rescue responses. He is Senior Lieutenant of Civilian Security Service, an Engineer of Fire and Rescue procedures of 4th SFRU of Lviv.
And this is Roman Pitsyshyn, Major of Civilian Security Service and a Head of 4th SFRU of the State Emergency Service of Ukraine in Lviv region. Although his rank and position sound very respectfully and seriously, Roman himself is good company and a good storyteller.
There is a calm atmosphere behind the unit’s gate. If not the bright posters calling for being careful with fire, and rescue vehicles parked in the garage, you will not say at all that work here is connected with a constant stress.
I notice children’s works inside on the walls. Roman explains, “Schoolchildren often visit us on tours. We are always glad to tell and demonstrate how fire-fighters work.”
The unit is equipped with everything necessary for rescuers’ comfortable work. There is a kitchen, a mess, a night-rest room, a gym, billiards, a zone of psychological relief… Andrii says, “It is good that there is a place for rest when you get tired. You can watch TV, sit in the arm-chairs or on the sofa in our room of psychological relief. Also, fish live here, there is a fish tank in the corner.
How to Study to Become a Fire-Fighter?
“When I was a little boy”, Andrii is telling, “I was always saying that I wanted to be a fire-fighter. Although, at school I did not think seriously over the job, but when there was EIA, I decided that it is interesting. Moreover, my father is military and he always wanted one of his sons to wear shoulder straps. And, as I am senior, I had to “take the rap” for everybody.
I graduated from Lviv State University of Life Safety. The training was serious: we were trained to have endurance, physical strength and agility. They are very necessary in our work as the weight of our equipment is about 25 kg.
The training was similar to the army. For the first two weeks we had training in a boot camp in Tsuniv. Then we studied at the University: we attended lessons, went on duties, served on guard duties. For the first two years we were living in the barracks.
Our student life was a little different from life in usual universities. As future people in shoulder straps, we were forbidden to go to night clubs, to drink, and smoke. When we came to the roll call, there was an inspection: whether you are not drunk or your hair is appropriately cut. You could not even use phones! But anyway, we found ways how to do it.”.
What Does the Work Consist of?
“Our work is in shifts: you work for one 24-hour day, then you have 3 days off. A shift begins with handing over guard details: facilities and equipment are taken over and handed over, the transport is checked.
If everything is well, service training begins. It is necessary for everybody, even for those who work for long, for improving skills of the personnel. The lectures are held, practical lessons are conducted according to a monthly schedule.
Next, we have a break for lunch. You can cook something in the kitchen or you can take something ready-to-eat from home. After that, depending on the day, weekday or the weekend, there are either fatigue duties (materiel maintenance, cleaning), or cultural recreation (playing chess, watching TV programmes).
Then we have dinner and a personal time. By the way, you can sleep in the night-rest room only in the period from 23:00 to 6:00 for the whole shift.
But our shifts are not always like this. When there is an alarm, you have to get ready quickly and to be ready to any emergency. Most often we have at least one callout for a shift. It is very seldom when nothing happens for all 24-hour day.”
Who Responds to Fires?
“If cadets come to do practical training, they cannot take part in fire extinguishing. Normally, they are allowed to go on fire responses, if they demonstrate themselves well in the studying. But it is prohibited for them to put on protective equipment and go “fighting”.
Concerning young servicemen who have already got an education… At first, they undergo a 3-4-month “probation period”. This is a time when they have pre-training at a training station, they go on duty, secure access to the respiratory protective equipment. And only after that they go on combat guard duty”, Roman says.
How Do They Rescue Cats?
“There was a situation in Yavornytskyi Street. Either 6 and 8, or 5 and 7… We went to help a railway unit, because fire outbreak had occurred on the first floor in the flat. We got out from the vehicles and started to work… And a person runs out from the house next to us and calls us “Help, here is a fire!” A flat had got on fire in a parallel house. So, we moved to that fire immediately. With the help of a ladder we got into the flat through the window, we extinguished a fire and saved… a cat. The owners were not at home. And in the next flat there was some pet too, it seems to me, a cat. Or a little dog.
In general, we take down cats from the trees too. People sometimes call and we go there”.
Why Do Fire-Fighters’ Wives Want to Turn Them Out of the House?
I ask Andrii how his family reacts to his job. He is laughing, “The wife wants to turn me out of the house!” But then he answers seriously, “I am joking, of course. However, I sometimes understand her, because different things happen in this job. When night responses occur, I can come home at three at night. And sometimes I stay overtime to help the team. The wife understands everything and tries to support me, although she worries, of course.
I do not wish such a job for my son unless he wants himself. Then you cannot do anything about it”, the guy is smiling.
It is easier for Roman, “I am not married yet and I do not have children. I do not know how I would react, if my children wanted to become the same as their father. Perhaps, I would allow”.
Women in the Job
Being aware of modern world tendencies about gender equality, I ask if there are any firewomen in the unit. The guys are getting surprised.
“Girls work here and we studied together with them too. They were reaching qualifying standards, were visiting lectures at the university… However, no one of the girls expressed a desire to go working as a rescuer. Women work here in a personnel department, in an alarm room, in a press centre. We heard that there is a firewoman in Poland. But in Lviv there have not been any “precedents” yet”.
“Our unit is as the second family for us. Everyone of us has parents, brothers and sisters, wives and husbands, children… But here, we consider us the family too. If someone has problems, we try to help as much as we can.
Surely, we cannot go without jokes. Sometimes, when a newcomer comes to service, we put a brick into his bag for fun. Not always a person sees that we have joked, and he notices the “load” only when he comes home”.
“If we wanted to change something in the service, it would be getting more support from the country. Of course, we would like to have more modern equipment, better safety facilities… However, a fire-fighter means not only good equipment. This is compassion, humanity, sincerity and a courageous heart”.