Firefighters, along with the other emergency services, are heroes. But there’s a lot more to the profession than, well, putting fires out. In this gripping and informative book, former firefighter Edric Kennedy-Macfoy describes what it’s like to be part of London Fire Brigade and the personal factors which made him join… and leave.
Edric really got me involved in his story. There is a compelling emotional focus; he lost so many people he was close to, including his inspirational mother. In his early twenties he was working three jobs to support his younger brother. Becoming a firefighter was a great turning point for Edric because he loved being able to save lives. It was also exciting, driving the fire engines, rushing to scenes, using specialist equipment and meeting the public. Incidents range from the humorous (the woman who kept ‘accidentally’ getting her toe stuck in the bath tap) to the horrific. To some extent he was able to view the more severe incidents with detachment and just focus on getting casualties out. However, two major incidents, the Croydon tram derailment in 2016 and the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017, affected his mental health so badly that he developed PTSD. That’s when he decided to write this book. I appreciate how this was a form of therapy for him. Although he returned to the Fire Brigade, he soon left.
I found it interesting to learn more about what it’s like to be a firefighter, in particular how the crew operate as a team and how different kinds of incidents are dealt with (by the way, in nearly thirteen years Edric was never called to rescue a cat from a tree). There are also insights into working for the prison service (one of his early jobs) and what it’s like to train for – and to be targeted by – the police. Generally I liked the writing style, although there was some repetition which I think could have been edited out.
After reading this book, I found that there has been some controversy over the content. Former colleagues have said the book is more fiction than fact and that he should not have written about the Grenfell victims. Despite this, I still think it’s a very good read. The book is raising awareness of what firefighters do. It seems to me that the detractors are focusing on details in the first chapter and not appraising the wider picture.
This book was published in 2018 by Bantam Press.