Firefighters go through intensive and extensive rescue training, hoping they’ll never be forced to use it. But sooner or later, they find themselves in a position where they’re asked to risk their own lives to save another.
The job requires those on duty to be ready around the clock, though when a firefighter is enjoying his time off, he doesn’t expect to be abruptly called to action.
Paul McClenaghan, a firefighter in London, was visiting his mother on May 10.
McClenaghan is a veteran firefighter who has been in the service for years. But it’s been some time since he’s seen any real action.
As the Lambeth fire station manager, he’s normally directing a team of firefighters in the moment of crisis. But despite being out of practice, when a Thursday afternoon visit to his mother’s house turned into an emergency, his instincts kicked in.
“I’m usually the one in charge of an incident so it’s been a while since I’ve gone into a property to do a rescue of this nature,” McClenaghan said to the Ilford Recorder.
While spending the time with his mother, McClenaghan noticed billowing dark smoke filling the air only a few streets over in Chadwell Heath. He investigated, and quickly discovered a situation desperately in need of his intervention.
A nearby building had caught fire, and several people were trapped inside.
“I could see a woman screaming from a window as her escape route was blocked,” McClenaghan said to the London Fire Brigade.
“A fire had developed on the outside of the building but thick smoke was already billowing across an external staircase, preventing her from making a quick exit.”
Thinking on his feet, McClenaghan waved down a construction van that was fortunately equipped with a ladder. He asked the builders to call the fire department while he used the ladder to rescue the woman screaming from her window.
After he’d brought her down to safety, the veteran firefighter went back into the building to see if there were any more people trapped and unable to make their way to an exit.
He saved five people from the fire likely caused by the unsafe disposal of cigarettes or matches.
After going back inside, McClenaghan ushered another four people safely away from the blaze. The fire department arrived shortly and extinguished the fire.
Paul and the five people he saved were treated for smoke inhalation by London Ambulance Service.
Not only are those who were trapped in the building grateful.
“I want to congratulate Paul for his swift action in helping these people in distress,” Al Perez, the London Fire Brigade’s deputy assistant commissioner for North East London, said to the Ilford Recorder.
But Perez also stressed that McClenaghan is an experienced firefighter who is trained to handle these kinds of situations. Civilians should call the fire department when they see an emergency, rather than risking their own life.
For the hero firefighter, the daring rescue was all in a day’s work.
“For firefighters, helping people is what we do, I know it sounds cheesy, but we’re never off duty,” McClenaghan said.