KILWINNING councillor Scott Davidson has retired after 29 years in the fire service in the west of Scotland - but he says life has been non-stop ever since his last shift.

Councillor Davidson spoke about his experience dealing with fatalities, being attacked on the job, and making split-second life or death decisions – and that was just the first week.

Councillor Davidson said he realised he was about to experience the horrendous side of life in no time at all on the job, but it was a job like no other, that has helped him grow from his first day to his last.

Starting out with Red Watch at Pollok Fire Station, he recalled his first moments on the job, which he had taken four years applying to before being accepted.

Cllr Davidson said: “I started my first night shift, and within two or three minutes of roll call finishing, we were called out to my first fire, which turned out to be a very serious incident - sadly a fatal house fire.

“It was straight in at the deep end, and you soon realise a boy is going to be turning into a man pretty quick.”

Being thrown in at the deep end didn’t stop there, as Cllr Davidson, who at this point hardly knew his new colleagues’ names, had another new experience - this time during the most challenging spell of any firefighter's year.

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“With it being the build-up to Bonfire Night, we were called out to a couple of incidents in the area, where we were subject to abuse," he said.

“We were involved in two attacks on firefighters, again on my first night, so I can appreciate how any worker feels when they suffer abuse simply for being at their workplace.

“I find it completely unacceptable and in my cabinet position (in the council) this is something I plan on addressing. It’s something that simply should not have to be tolerated.”

Still only a few weeks into the job, there was another steep learning curve for Cllr Davidson, though it was of a completely different type.

As the ground floor of a four-storey block of flats was alight, those on the floors above found themselves trapped by the flames and smoke.

His job that night was to tackle the fire on the ground with his fellow firefighters - though that quickly took a turn, after a colleague entering the blaze pointed towards the thick black smoke.

As a small part of this cleared, Cllr Davidson noticed a mother and her young kids on the veranda of one of the higher flats at the far corner of the building.

He said: “I got the short extension ladder up to the first-floor balcony where the mum and four young kids were.

“I got them down one at a time to safety. It was the first live rescue I was involved in.

“At this point I realised I was really in a privileged position of getting to help people at their worst moment, where they may have given up hope of survival.

“You are part of a team that get to save lives & property, by taking calculated risks, and being part of that team is an honour.

“What I’ve always loved about the fire brigade is when you phone, we come, and we do what we have to do to save lives, often despite the risk involved for us.”

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Having moved around watches in the surrounding areas of Glasgow, Cllr Davidson moved back to Ayrshire to work at Dreghorn fire station on Blue Watch.

It was then he was quickly appointed as a Fire Brigades Union representative, fighting for fair pay for he and his colleagues in the fire service.

He commented: “During this time my interest in politics increased triple fold. This was probably the start of my path to where I am now as an elected member of North Ayrshire Council.”

A promotion to Watch Commander on Ardrossan Blue Watch followed, where he took up the role of fire service school liaison officer, working with Kilwinning Academy and associated primaries.

This was a role he took up between his shifts while still working as an operational firefighter.

Cllr Davidson explained: “This was after a significant fire in Kilwinning, where unfortunately a young woman died, and two of her children were seriously injured, in a fire set by then pupils at the Academy.

“We had to come in with a hard-hitting message, aimed at reducing deliberate fire-raising in the area, which we managed to achieve quite successfully.

“We also reduced hoax calls and attacks on firefighters quite significantly through early intervention, which filters up. It was one of my most rewarding roles.”

Another memorable role was his time heavily involved with the ‘Reckless Driving Wrecks Lives’ initiative.

This involved working with the police and ambulance services, and also survivors or families of those affected by road traffic collisions.

It was all part of a bit to reduce deaths on Ayrshire roads by educating school leaver aged students on the extreme risks attached to reckless driving.

As a result deaths involving young people on the roads went down year on year during the lifetime of the initiative – with South Ayrshire Council, who ran the scheme, being rewarded for its impact.

Scott was also involved in a Scottish Fire and Rescue Service media campaign aimed at reducing death or serious injury in the home due to fire.

This is something which also achieved its goal, and the hard-hitting video which was attached to the campaign is still available to watch.

Following a three-year stint as a fire safety enforcement officer based at SFRS headquarters, he returned to Kilwinning Green Watch as operational watch commander.

“This is where I saw out my last five years, returning to the town I live in to work," he said.

"That's something I’ve always tried to avoid due to the concern at potentially having to attend incidents where people you know and care for could be involved.

“But as it turned out my last five years were exceptional. I couldn’t have picked a better place and Watch to see out my time, and people I know.

“We are way more than colleagues on my watch, we are good friends.

“I left the station for the last time on Saturday, May 28. It was a highly emotive time for me - it wasn’t just a job I was leaving at that point, it was a way of life.

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“My 29 years in the fire service has been a pleasure, and it has been amazing to work with so many brilliant people who have become such good friends.

“It was such a rewarding job. I believe it was the job for me and I was the man for the job.

"I couldn’t recommend it enough, and wish my colleagues and friends in the Fire Brigade the very best for the remainder of their careers.”

Councillor Davidson says he is now looking forward to his next five years in the council, representing Kilwinning and getting to grips with his new cabinet role.

He said: “I am looking forward to spending more time with my partner Gillian, family and friends in retirement however, I realise I am going to be very busy with this new role.

“I’ve had 29 years’ experience as a practical firefighter, and I feel this will help me get to grips with this new, very practical portfolio the role involves.

“I have already been out and about meeting people from within the place directorate.

“I am going to very hands-on in this role, and I cannot wait for the next five years, making Kilwinning and North Ayrshire the best place it can possibly be.”

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