A newly qualified firefighter has spoken of his pride at passing his course on the seven-year anniversary of his younger brother’s death.
Lewis McLauchlan was one of 32 new firefighters to pass out with Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service (TWFRS) before Christmas.
The passing out ceremony marked the culmination of 12 weeks of intensive training both in the yard and in the classroom.
For the rest of his life the date of 17 December will always be remembered as the day he qualified as a firefighter so he could help keep his community safe.
But for the father-of-one, the date also carries more sombre memories, as it marked the seven-year anniversary of the death of his brother Karl.
His younger sibling was only 22 when he tragically died following a night out with work colleagues on 17 December 2014.
And today, Lewis, who is from North Tyneside, says making his brother proud helped spur him on through the intense process of qualifying as a firefighter.
The 32-year-old said: ‘My brothers passing has spurred me on to wanting to help people but it was always in my nature anyway, I’ve always want to help those who need it.
‘I’m a hard worker and I wanted to do what makes me happy and my previous role wasn’t doing that, I didn’t feel I was helping make a difference in people’s lives.
‘I loved the course and even if that was the job then I would have kept on going if I could, but I am so excited to get out on station and I feel well prepared.
‘It was always Police or Fire when I was younger, and when I’ve thought about joining TWFRS in the past the timing has never been right.
‘The support I received from my family, especially my girlfriend Emma, throughout the course was incredible and was so helpful, I know that they are proud of me.’
Keen basketball player Lewis always wanted to be part of the emergency services and will soon be joining his new colleagues after being posted to Tynemouth Community Fire Station.
Previous to a role working at HMRC, he had spent some time in North Yorkshire Police before moving back to Newcastle and worked as security for the Port of Tyne but needed a change after his brother passed away suddenly.
But Lewis was able to do his little brother proud after passing the 12-week course at the TWFRS training centre in Washington with a distinction.
Sadly, it was a bittersweet day at his passing out ceremony as Covid restrictions meant his proud mother was unable to be in attendance.
But mother-of-three Shirley has today spoken of the emotions at finding out Lewis would pass out on the anniversary of Karl’s death.
The 57-year-old said: ‘When Lewis first said I thought there are 364 other days of the year it could have been why is it this one, but when I thought about it actually for us it was a sign that Karl is still around.
‘Then my thoughts turned to Lewis’s welfare and making sure he was alright it had been a tough course but we knew he was going to put everything into this training and he did.
‘It was heart-breaking that we couldn’t attend but we still got to spend part of the day together as a family. It was such a mixture of emotions, we are so proud of Lewis and what he has achieved, he is incredibly respectful and kind.
‘Karl would have wanted this for Lewis.’
Assistant Chief Fire Officer Lynsey McVay has praised Lewis for his openness and hopes his story encourages more of the region to become part of the fire family.
She said: ‘How we react in situations of tragedy really shapes who we are as people and I’m so proud that Lewis has found his way to TWFRS and become part of our family.
‘It’s a tough 12 weeks when you are training, you get filled with all this knowledge and then you are out on station putting it into practice it can be really daunting.
‘Lewis has been equipped with the tools to be a great firefighter and his past work experiences helps him to know how to think on his feet and assess the environment around him.
‘I’m so proud of how hard our recruits work to make sure they are in the best form possible when they get on station and it should reassure our communities we are working hard to keep them safe.’
If you are thinking about a change in career then TWFRS are recruiting for a number of operational and corporate roles across the service on their website.