Life as a firefighter: Inside look from a man who tackled Chilford Hall blaze

Ben Sams

Ben Sams - Credit: Archant

“All I can remember as we pulled out of the station was seeing it in the distance – flames and smoke firing up, high into the sky.”

“All I can remember as we pulled out of the station was seeing it in the distance – flames and smoke firing up, high into the sky.”

Father-of-three Ben Sams, 33, was one of the first firefighters at the scene of the devastating Chilford Hall fire in Linton nearly a year ago.

Fighting the fierce fire for more than three hours before he was relieved of duty, on-call firefighter Ben knows just how important it is to have crews in the community who can help salvage parts of someone’s home or business.

Ben said: “My pager went off and I was at the station within one minute. It was the dead of night and as we were driving up to Chilford everyone in the pump went silent. The closer we got, the bigger it became and the more the adrenalin pumped. The noise of the fire was ferocious.

“But it’s not all big fires like Chilford, however every incident is an emergency. I’ve attended animal rescues where horses have been stuck in rivers, people trapped in road traffic collisions and other jobs like chimney fires and wheelie bin fires.

“Whatever the job is, you just do the best you can.”

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Ben used to live in Haverhill before moving to Linton in recent years, where he now lives in Hollybush Way with his wife Andrea and three children Josh, 13, Francesca, 5, and Jacob, 2.

He said there are times when you are always concerned that the people involved in an incident are going to be known to you.

Ben explained: “I turned up at a road traffic collision and the woman who was trapped and badly injured was wearing the same Addenbrooke’s nurse’s uniform as my wife. My heart skipped a beat, but then I remembered my wife was at home. I remained professional and got to work with the crew in rescuing the casualty.”

After completing a public services course as a teenager, Ben wanted to become a marine in the armed forces but after meeting his wife and having children decided it wasn’t for him.

The self-employed tiler landed a job at aerospace factory Hexcel Composites in Duxford and soon met current watch commander Lee Allen who introduced him to the on-call fire service in Linton.

Ben said: “I do shift work and so does my wife so being on-call for the fire service works well around being a dad and going to work.

“I have learned so much already in the 18 months of being a firefighter and am now part of the fire team at Hexcel as well where we act as first responders if there’s an incident on site.

“I think my family are proud and the children love seeing the fire engine go past. I’ve definitely also become more aware of fire safety – even just little things like having smoke detectors correctly fitted. In our old house we had one smoke alarm, which was nowhere near enough. Now I make sure my family, friends and neighbours all have smoke alarms. It’s a job that sometimes just brings those real life emergencies a little closer to home.”

Linton Fire Station is recruiting on-call firefighters. For more information, call 01480 444500 or pop along to the open day at the station on Saturday, June 8, from 10am until 3pm.