Firefighting mum reveals heart stopping moment after she attends an incident involving her son

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A firefighting mum has revealed how “her heart stopped” when she attended a fireball car smash - and learned her own son was involved.

Watch Commander Gale Coates had quickly mobilised in the fire appliance to reports of the vehicle on fire at Ayton in Eyemouth on December 9, 2008.

She tasked her crew with putting out the flames as she approached a group of bystanders to locate the driver – and that is when she heard a very familiar voice say “hiya, mum”.

The experienced firefighter admitted: “My heart stopped … and I think time stopped.”

The mother-of-two spoke about her vital role as she encouraged others to follow her lead and protect communities by becoming a retained firefighter.

WC Coates, who responds to emergencies via an on-call pager, was alerted at around 5pm that fateful day and arrived a short time later at the unlit stretch of road on the B6355.

She recalled: “It’s really unusual to turn up to a road traffic collision incident where the car is already a ball of flames.

“The car was that bad that it was impossible to tell what type of car it was or read its registration.”

Approaching the group of bystanders, she asked: “Where’s the driver?” That’s when her son Daniel Coates, aged 18 at the time, stepped forward and said: “Hiya Mum.”

She said: “He was thankfully uninjured. It was nonetheless a frightening reality for me and I think it really made him realise why I missed his birthday party when he was five – to help protect our community.

“If I can’t be there for my family when they need me most, how can I expect someone else to?”

WC Coates has amassed 27 years’ experience as a retained firefighter in her local Eyemouth area.

When asked about her job she said: “I’ve learned a lot about myself over the years.

“I really have learned that there is nothing that you can’t actually do or achieve … but some things do take an awful lot of hard work.

“Satisfaction is the biggest thing you get from this job and, although there are times where you might not have been able to save someone, you can still help prevent something from potentially becoming even worse.”

Watch Commander Coates also urged people in their local communities to join firefighters at their local fire station.

She said: “Whenever I get someone new in the station, they always say ‘I’ve been thinking about this for ages’ – but, the thing is, we’ve been looking to recruit for ages!

“It’s usually because the person has built up the confidence to go for it but I just want to say to people to show that confidence because we will help wherever possible.”

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service is looking for retained firefighters across Scotland – details can be found at or by contacting your local station. 


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