For Sydney’s Sam Rouen, becoming a firefighter was always his goal growing up, but he “wasn’t sure it was an achievable dream” due to health issues and the competitive recruitment process.
However, after shedding 71kg and winning The Biggest Loser in 2008 at age 19, he managed to be successful in the 2011 recruitment program, and has been a permanent firefighter since.
Dangers Of The Job
From the risks of the unknown to the danger of putting one’s life on the line, there’s “definitely lots of aspects of the job that are quite difficult” according to Rouen.
“One of the most difficult but most rewarding parts of the job is responding to traumatic situations,” he told HuffPost Australia.
“You arrive to a job and meet people potentially on the worst day of their life and do whatever is in your ability to help them. The hardest part would be when despite doing everything in your ability, that you aren’t able to help.”
Having grown up in the Macarthur region south west of Sydney, Rouen’s first post was with the Lidcombe fire station for five years. Since then he’s mainly worked in Sydney on property protection projects for Fire Rescue NSW, though was recently part of the team attending to raging Turramurra bushfires along with the NSW Rural Fire Service volunteer firefighters.
“It has definitely been one of the worst fire seasons that the state has ever seen,” said Rouen.
“Aussies had already been doing it tough with drought conditions, but the dry land matched with some big winds have created absolutely catastrophic conditions across the state.”
He said the destruction and damage caused by the fires “is beyond devastating”, and that these conditions are expected to continue throughout summer.
“So all of those in the fire affected areas and the firies on the ground up there battling are going to need as much support as they can get,” he said.
Speaking of support, last week Australian non-profit suicide prevention organisation RU OK? launched a campaign ‘Are they Triple OK’, encouraging stronger peer and social support for police and emergency services workers across Australia.
Rouen said the job “does takes its toll on me from time to time”, and appropriate support services can help firefighters through those periods.
“Emergency service workers are definitely exposed to a lot of traumatic and emotionally draining scenarios, it’s in the nature of what we all signed up for,” he said.
“It does take its toll on me from time to time, but that’s a part of being human and also what creates that passion in trying to help people.
“There are some fantastic services to help cope with this, whether it be a chat with your crew on shift, contact a Peer Support member (or EAP - Employee Assistance Program) and also just having a great support network of loved ones,” he added.
Diversity Of The Role
After helping put out some of the blazing fires on Sydney’s north shore last month, Rouen has been working in a capacity that he said is “a slightly different role to the majority of firefighters”.
“Something I’d like people to know is the diversity in things that we do. Our current slogan so to say, is ‘Prepared for Anything’. There is a misconception that all we deal with is fire, but our role extends much beyond that,” he explained.
“I’m attached to a technical training unit and facilitate training all over the state, specialising in breathing apparatus, hazardous material response, confined spaces, thermal imaging, atmospheric monitoring and gas detection.
“I definitely enjoy this role as I get to ensure firefighters across the state are current in their training, highly skilled in responding to assist the public and importantly able to remain safe on the fire ground.”