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Our apprentice firefighters keep journals of their early experiences in Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service.

Here's a selection of their entries to illustrate the variety involved...


Why a smoke alarm is so important

For our second blog we let you know about Jim, who is a Welwyn Garden City resident and how the smoke alarm Welwyn Garden City had fitted for him, potentially saved his life.

Incident Details

At 02:50 hours on Thursday 9 February 2023, two fire engines from Welwyn Garden City and the Hatfield Crew were called to reports of flat fire. Whilst enroute, the Crews were informed that the incident was being upgraded to ‘persons reported’ as the occupant had been seen going back into the property that was on fire.

On arrival, the Officer in Charge (OIC) from Welwyn Garden City Red Watch carried out an initial scene assessment and was met by a neighbour. The neighbour was able to direct the Crews to the affected flat and confirmed what the Crews had been told enroute, that the occupant had re-entered the property. On opening the front door to the communal area, the OIC found it to be smoke logged, so a Breathing Apparatus (BA) team with a hose reel and Thermal Imaging Camera (TIC) were requested.

Whilst the BA Crew were donning their kit, the gentleman from the affected flat appeared at the top of the staircase, and under the guidance of the OIC, was taken to safety where he was administered trauma care by the fire service prior to the arrival of the ambulance.

Once the BA team had entered the property, one of the neighbours exited their property and was also led to safety. The BA team proceeded to extinguish the fire located in the corridor of the first floor flat. Once the fire was extinguished, BA crews checked for any hotspots, cut away burnt areas and ensured there had been no fire spread.

Post Incident Engagement

Following the incident, Jim wanted to come to Welwyn Garden City Fire Station to thank the Crews for their work and for making sure he was safely removed from his property. Follow up work meant we discovered that Red Watch Welwyn Garden City had initially installed Jim’s smoke alarms and carried out a full home fire safety visit. A couple of years later, due to a low battery in the smoke alarm, Blue Watch Welwyn Garden City replaced the smoke alarm and ensured that the initial home fire safety check still met Jim’s needs.

Jim told the Crew at the station that it was the smoke alarms that woke him up and meant he subsequently found a fire in his hallway, Jim said “if the smoke alarm you fitted had not gone off, I would not have woken up”.

This incident shows the importance of having working smoke alarms, testing them regularly and the importance of the home fire safety checks that are carried out in the local community by the fire service. To book your own Home Fire Safety Check, click here.

The Two Top Tips to Keep you Safe

March is smoke alarm month

For our first blog, we're covering the importance of having a working smoke alarm. We supply and fit smoke alarms free of charge

In the following case, a working smoke alarm prevented a kitchen fire spreading and alerted the resident so they could escape. We spoke to Firefighter Kempster who joined Welwyn Garden City Fire Station in December 2022 after spending 16 weeks at our training centre in Stevenage.

Firefighter Kempster's first month at Welwyn Garden City

This is one of the first property fires that Firefighter Kempster attended. He said:

"We got tipped out to a kitchen fire in Codicote, along with Stevenage. We arrived ten seconds behind Stevenage so we were backing them up in this incident. Stevenage’s BA (Breathing Apparatus) team did initial deployment and went into the building with a TIC (Thermal Imaging Camera) and hosereel.

Once BAECO (Breathing Apparatus Entry Control Officer) was established, me and my BA partner donned up and did our buddy checks. We went through BAECO and round to the back garden to attack the fire from the back garden. We put out a small fire underneath the windowsill where the window had fallen out of the frame and there were wooden boards. We extinguished the external fire and any hotspots we identified on the TIC.

Once the fire was extinguished inside the kitchen by Stevenage’s BA team, me and my BA leader got bolt croppers and a haligan bar to remove the window which was being held on by the metal framework. Once the window was removed, we could move the wooden boards to a safe location. We then serviced our sets and took some water onboard.

The property owner was in a wheelchair and had been given a blanket and taken to a location of safety. I then put on a Sundstrom mask and entered the property with a ceiling hook. Me and my crew ensured none of the insulation above the ceiling was alight or glowing on the TIC. The damage was only in the kitchen and the fire hadn’t affected the loft space.

We could see a clear smoke layer on the walls where the smoke had been, in the kitchen and throughout the downstairs area. We isolated the electrics in a kitchen cupboard and were satisfied the scene was safe. We had to wait for the boarding up company to arrive to secure the property as the back window was removed. Whilst we waited, we did some home fire safety checks with neighbouring properties.

I learnt about our fire duties post incident and I learnt about checking for heat above the ceiling in the insulation."

Top tips to avoid a kitchen fire

  • Accidents will always happen so ensure you have a working smoke detector.
  • Take extra care if you need to leave the kitchen whilst cooking, take pans off the heat or turn them down to avoid risk.
  • Avoid cooking when under the influence of alcohol.
  • Avoid leaving children in the kitchen alone when cooking on the hob. Keep matches and sauce pan handles out of their reach to keep them safe.
  • Make sure saucepan handles don't stick out – so they don't get knocked off the stove.
  • Take care if you're wearing loose clothing – they can easily catch fire.
  • Keep tea towels and cloths away from the cooker and hob.
  • Spark devices are safer than matches or lighters to light gas cookers, because they don't have a naked flame.
  • Double check the cooker is off when you've finished cooking.


Take care with electrics

  • Keep electrics (leads and appliances) away from water.
  • Check toasters are clean and placed away from curtains and kitchen rolls.
  • Keep the oven, hob and grill clean and in good working order. A build-up of fat and grease can ignite a fire.
  • Don't put anything metal in the microwave.


Deep fat frying

  • Take care when cooking with hot oil – it sets alight easily.
  • Use clean oil without food debris from previous use.
  • Make sure food is dry before putting it in hot oil so it doesn't splash.
  • If the oil starts to smoke – it's too hot. Turn off the heat and leave it to cool.
  • Use a thermostat controlled electric deep fat fryer. They can't overheat.
  • If a pan catches fire:
    • don't take risks. Turn off the heat if it's safe to do so. Never throw water over it
    • don't tackle the fire yourself. Get out, call 999 and ask for the fire service.

If you are unsure of anything fire safety related for yourself, a friend or loved one, visit: Home Fire Safety Checks.

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