Aldene Woodward and her crew responded to the emergency in an English City in 2004 but, despite their efforts, the children sadly succumbed to their injuries.
The highly experienced firefighter, now a Station Commander in Inverness, has actively worked ever since to identify risks and prevent fires from occurring in the first place.
She spoke about this intelligence-based approach to fire prevention as the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service unveils its latest recruitment campaign.
Reliving the heart breaking tragedy 16 years ago, Aldene, now 43, said: “We were trained to handle the environment and the pressure, and we searched every inch of that building to make the rescues and fight the fire.
“I still think about those two children, but I know that we did everything we could … we couldn’t have done anything differently but I still live that rescue in my mind.”
Determined Aldene, who is married to police officer wife Aly, said: “It was after that incident that I took a real interest in fire prevention.
“It just made sense to me – why wouldn’t we do this? If someone is calling us, then they are potentially already in a life or death situation so why not prevent that situation from ever occurring?
“We need to ensure people are equipped with the knowledge to stay safe, and we will continue to work closely with our partners and communities to actively identify those who may be vulnerable and at greatest risk.”
Last year, the SFRS carried out more than 60,000 visits to homes across Scotland to offer safety advice, help arrange fire escape plans and install smoke detectors where required.
Aldene amassed almost 20 years’ experience with West Midlands and later West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Services before joining the SFRS in March. She is now responsible for the effective management of multiple stations across Highland.
She said: “I am a real team player and that is why I was drawn to the fire service – we problem solve as a team and work closely with other emergency services and key partners with the sole purpose of making communities safer. We’re about saving lives and, when we are working together, that’s when we are at our best.”
The wholetime firefighter recruitment campaign – ‘We Are SFRS … You Are SFRS’ –opened last week and aims to attract more applications from women, ethnic minorities and the LGBTQ+ community. The Service is currently accepting applications nationally, with a focus on people who want to work in the North and East of Scotland.
Former semi-professional rugby player Aldene said applicants should prepare and ensure they are in good physical health: “I’ve always been into my health and fitness, and while the standards for the Service aren’t superhero levels, it’s still quite demanding because you have to respond as part of a team when fires do occur.
“You don’t need to be big; in fact in some rescue situations a smaller frame can be a real advantage, but you do need to be fit and you need to maintain that standard if you’re accepted. Take the time to learn about our requirements, and start putting the hard work in now to make sure you meet … or exceed them.”
Liz Barnes is the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service’s Director of People and Organisational Development.
She said: “We are a Service who pride ourselves on working at the very heart of our communities to keep people safe and it is therefore imperative that we reflect the diversity of those communities.
“We are actively reaching out through our latest recruitment campaign, We Are SFRS… You Are SFRS, to welcome and support people to take that first step of applying.
“But let me be clear – you will have to hit the standard for your application to be accepted so I would advise everyone to give it great thought and consideration and begin preparing as soon as you can.
“I would urge those who are interested to also follow our dedicated social media accounts and pay close attention to which area we are recruiting for – do not apply if you do not want to work in the current recruitment region.
“This is an exciting time, and we are very much looking forward to welcoming the next generation into a Service that is seeking to do so much more for the people of Scotland.”
To apply: https://www.myjobscotland.gov.uk/emergency-services/scottish-fire-and-rescue-service
For detailed information on the role and fitness advice, visit: https://www.firescotland.gov.uk/work-with-us/wholetime-firefighter-recruitment.aspx
For regular recruitment updates follow the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service on Facebook and @fire_scot on Twitter and Instagram, LinkedIn or search for #YouAreSFRS