A firefighter who stepped forward to support the London Ambulance Service (LAS) during their hour of need feels proud to be able to tell his children that he played his part to help the country. Firefighter Uzair Yaqoob has been charting his work with the LAS through a series of video diaries, to give the public an insight into what it’s really like on the frontline.
Hillingdon firefighter and father of two, Uzair, is one of London’s firefighters who is boosting the capital’s response to COVID-19 by driving ambulances and supporting paramedics. Uzair joined the Brigade in September 2017 and is now assisting the LAS for the second time having done so during the first phase of the pandemic early last year. Speaking about his decision to volunteer, Uzair said: “This is one of the biggest things to happen in history and it was a great opportunity for me to get involved in multi-agency work and to really make a difference.
“I have two young kids at home and another 40 years of my career ahead of me. Before the opportunity came up, I was helping to deliver prescriptions and supplies to vulnerable people in my local village. I would take the kids and get the bikes out and we would go and help wherever we could.
“I want to look back on this time and be able to tell my children that I played my part to help our country through this.”
Documenting one of his night shifts with the LAS, Uzair shows what a typical start looks like, running through checks on the ambulance with his crewmate, Obi Okeke. As part of his role as a firefighter, Uzair had already received training in Immediate Emergency Care (IEC) and felt comfortable using a lot of the equipment on board the ambulance, having used similar equipment on a fire engine.
Uzair said: “I often use the life pack and carry out basic checks on the patient, which gives my crewmate, Obi, the opportunity to assess the situation and identify any risks.
“I’ve always been interested in the medical side of the job that I do, but I was never really into sitting down and studying. Now, I’ve taken a real interest in it and I’ve been doing some online learning at home too.”
Uzair’s video diaries also see him reflecting on the different incidents he attends, most of which involve Covid patients. He added: “Back in January, pretty much every single job we were going to would be a Covid case. We were getting messages to say that the hospitals were extremely busy and we had to call up and see where there was space to take patients.
“We do still get messages to say that the hospitals are busy, but more people are getting vaccinated and it is getting better.”
No one day is the same for firefighters and for many, like Uzair, that’s the reason why they do the job. But whilst firefighters never know what scenario they are going to be faced with, on the ambulance, you don’t get the chance to think. Giving a behind-the-scenes look into a working day on board the ambulance, Uzair’s videos show the reality of just how busy the service has been. He said: “Being on the ambulance you lose the luxury of a lot of simple things and breakfast is swallowed down quickly, but the whole experience has been so humbling.
“As awful as this situation is, I’m very grateful for the opportunity to be able to go out and help. If another opportunity came up, I would definitely help in any way that I can and I hope that we can continue to work as closely with our partners in the future.”
Looking to the future, Uzair added: “It’s been hard to put myself in the middle of this, because my parents and my two brothers are vulnerable and I haven’t seen them in a really long time. Now they have had the vaccine, so I hope I’ll be able to see them soon. Seeing the country beginning to come out of this period has motivated me to go out and help.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner David O’Neill said: “Uzair is representative of the best of the Brigade and we are very proud of the dedication and willingness to serve that our firefighters, like Uzair, have shown throughout this difficult year. They really have demonstrated that firefighters do so much more than just fight fires.
“Many of them have young families and have put themselves at a greater degree of risk to do what they can to support the capital. This is an incredibly difficult task, but one that we have not shied away from, which has meant that Londoners have continued to access care if needed.”
The next video in the series will go live today and follows Uzair and Obi on their next shift.