TV cameras have been given exclusive access to go behind the scenes with the fire service in one of Wales’ biggest and busiest towns.
‘Fire Station 20’ is the operational name for South Wales Fire and Rescue’s base in Barry in the Vale of Glamorgan. It is also the title of the new three-part series.
Crews in Barry work on shifts covering 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They are trained to respond to almost any emergency – and they are ready for anything.
For six months ITV Wales cameras followed the life of the station and the lives of the firefighters who work there.
They talk revealingly about the vital bonds they build when teamwork can make the difference between life and death.
And they share how they support each other when, despite their best efforts, lives are lost.
“I think people probably have an assumption that we move on from it and almost try to forget about it” says Firefighter Owen Lewis.
But the reality is very different. “I find here in Barry that we will talk about it almost as soon as the doors on the truck are shut,” he added.
The series takes viewers behind-the-scenes into a job and life that few outside the service will ever know.
Callouts range from major incidents, working closely with other emergency services, to rescuing an elderly woman stuck in a lift.
“Most of the time we see people in the worst part of their lives and that’s not nice but when you get things like lift rescues, it’s not the worst day. It’s not the best but it isn’t the worst and then when you get them out and they’ve just found the whole thing hilarious, it’s great,” said Firefighter, Raf Taylor.
The series followed lengthy discussions between fire chiefs and programme-makers.
The result has brought praise from Chief Fire Officer Huw Jakeway.
He said: “This is the very first time South Wales Fire and Rescue Service has allowed cameras behind the scenes and it has been a pleasure to work with ITV Cymru Wales, and particularly with [producer] Nicola Hendy over the past few months.
“Having recently had the opportunity to preview the series with some of our crews, I can honestly say I felt emotionally proud to be the Chief Fire Officer of South Wales Fire and Rescue Service.
“The scenes captured reinforced for me what I already knew, that the people who work across our Service are all incredibly dedicated, professional and caring people and are committed to making South Wales safer.”
Producer Nicola Hendy filmed most of the series. She added: “It was a privilege to be allowed behind the scenes of Fire Station 20.
“I followed the firefighters through every aspect of their job, from the most difficult situations, to some of the more lighthearted. It was great to capture the true passion they have to protect their community.”
Fire Station 20 starts on Monday 22nd July at 8pm on ITV Cymru Wales and will also be available after broadcast on itv.com/walesprogrammes
The Team in their own words:
Mark Tait, Watch Manager – Mark Tait was in charge on the night that a man drowned in Penarth Marina. Unfortunately, fatalities are part of the job of a firefighter.
“It’s something you need to reflect on. We did a good job. We did as much as could be expected and we let the casualty go with a chance as far as we knew of surviving. Whoever we come across all we’re going to do is do our best to save their lives and that’s it”
Raf Taylor, Firefighter. Raf has been a firefighter for twenty years and still loves her job.
“It was something I’d always, always always wanted to do. I remember I was in University one day and my Mum phoned me: ‘there’s an ad in the Echo!’ And I was like ‘OK, I’ll ring it when I come home’. [She said] ‘No, no, I’ve done it, they’re sending you an application.’ And here I am!”
Lewis Harrhy, Firefighter. Fire Station 20’s newest recruit. We follow him from training to his first few days with Blue Watch in Barry. It’s a Fire Service tradition for the new recruit to arrive with cakes – and Lewis doesn’t disappoint his new colleagues!
“It’s been a lot of years in the making. I’m just looking forward now to just enjoying this career and seeing where it takes me.”
Chris Wheeler, Firefighter. The veteran of Fire Station 20. With nearly 30 years of service under his belt Chris is retiring next year.
“I’ve done it for 29 years. If it didn’t mean that much then I probably wouldn’t have stayed as long as I have but I really enjoy doing it. I get a lot of satisfaction out of it and I think more than that it’s the excitement of actually going out and actually trying to make a difference.”
Ieuan Dobbs – Watch Manager – For Watch Manager ‘Dobbsy’’ the station is more than just work. He even brings his daughter in on his days off!
“My daughter loves it. She absolutely loves it. She’s two and she wants to be a firefighter. Everyday she comes here she thinks I’m a hero.”
Vivienne Perrett, The Cook for the crews in Barry. For two decades she’s kept them fed and watered.
“I like the conversation, the banter, I do a lot of laughing and sometimes I feel like their mother!”