A frontline view from an ambulance-driving firefighter
You might think that being a firefighter was enough of a service to your community and city: potentially hazardous, often unforgiving hours, people making jokes about cats in trees etc. But for many London firefighters, 2020’s pandemic was the opportunity to really go the extra mile, and volunteer to work as ambulance drivers during the worst health crisis to hit the capital since the Blitz. One of them, Uzair Yaqoob, has kept a video diary, which London Fire Brigade has now made available to watch, and it’s pretty eye-opening.
Yaqoob, a London Fire Brigade firefighter from Hillingdon, volunteered for duty with the London Ambulance Service back at the start of the pandemic. ‘This is one of the biggest things to happen in history and it was a great opportunity for me to get involved and to really make a difference,’ he says. ‘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.’ He volunteered again this winter, as the second spike to its toll on the NHS. ‘Back in January, pretty much every single job we were going to would be a Covid case,’ he says. ‘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.’
Yaqoob’s video diary charts his time through the ups and downs (not that many ups, tbf) of the daily battle that the LAS has had with Covid. It’s often matter of fact: in the cab of the ‘truck’ with his crewmate Obi (inevitably known as Obi-Wan); telling us about his breakfast; telling us about managing to leave the house without waking his kids; and telling us about bringing patient after patient into hospital, most of them with Covid-related conditions. It makes the stats you see online and on TV so much more real: these people are getting sick and calling 999 and being taken to hospital by people like Uzair Yaqoob all day long, day after day, for a year. It’s pretty chilling, but it’s also enormously inspiring to see a frontline worker so patently calm and capable, doing his bit for his city.
Uzair’s video diaries can be found on the London Fire Brigade YouTube account.
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