Firefighter (Control) Paul Gascoigne kept a mum and her two young children talking on the phone for eleven minutes until fire crews arrived after a fire broke out in the kitchen of their home in Felixstowe on October 2 2016.
Three fire engines were called out in the early hours of the morning to tackle the fire and all four casualties were later taken to hospital suffering from smoke inhalation.
Paul, 53, who is also an on-call firefighter in Ipswich, said the mum and her two children were in an upstairs bedroom while the woman’s husband was downstairs trying to fight the fire. The woman was shouting downstairs to her husband who was not responding.
Paul told her to stay in the upstairs bedroom with her two children and gave them fire safety advice including keeping the door shut to prevent the fire from coming into the bedroom, putting something along the bottom of the door to keep smoke out and staying by the window and keeping as low as possible. Paul also advised the woman to hang something from the window if possible to help the fire crew locate her and her children quicker.
“I just offered them advice, reassurance and kept them calm. I needed to extract as much information as possible from the caller for my colleagues in Control to relay to the attending fire crews. Where are they in the property? At the front? At the back? Plus monitor the conditions inside the room they are in – is the smoke getting any worse?”
He said one of the children was crying but said the woman seemed quite calm on the phone which helped him mobilise the first fire engine really quickly.
Paul, who was a communicator in the Royal Navy for several years and served in the Falklands War before becoming a control operator, said the incident was potentially life-threatening because people have died in house fires due to smoke inhalation.
“I am obviously very happy that myself, my control colleagues and firefighters in Felixstowe and Ipswich all played their part in what was a swift rescue for this family. We have been informed that the information Fire Control provided to crews did make a significant difference to the speed of the rescue.”