A firefighter who fled a war-torn country to save lives in Tyne and Wear has called on other immigrants to consider a career in the fire service.
Bahri Mustafa, or Baz to his friends and colleagues, is from Albania and has been with Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service (TWFRS) for 17 years.
The 40-year-old came to the region 20 years ago and settled in Gateshead after war broke out in his home country.
Shortly after his arrival Baz applied to become a firefighter, fulfilling a childhood dream when he passed out in 2005.
He spent 15 years serving his community in Gateshead before moving across the River Tyne where he is now stationed at West Denton Community Fire Station.
The father-of-two was inspired as a young child to become a firefighter after his father had an accident which resulted in him going to hospital with severe burns.
Now Baz is calling on other immigrants who have settled in the UK to consider following in his footsteps after TWFRS launched their latest round of recruitment.
Baz said: ‘It was incredibly difficult to leave my home country once the war broke out, but I knew that I needed to in order to stay safe. It was scary and isolating when I first arrived in the UK but I found my place at TWFRS.
‘My friend told me I should apply because I had all the qualities to make a good firefighter, I’m fit and passionate about safety and helping people and I knew it would be a good fit for me.
‘So, I applied and got through. The training was tough but I expected nothing less because it helps you realise every time you put on your fire kit the responsibility on your shoulders.
‘I mean its 17 years later and if I could go back and do it all again I definitely would, I love this job my children are so proud of the work I do.’
Baz says one of the most important skills as a firefighter is compassion and being able to be there for people at some of their lowest moments. He said: ‘You have to really put yourself in people’s shoes in this job, you often turn up to a job and people are at their worst so you’ve got to think fast and change the way you speak.
‘Interacting with the public is a huge part of what we do and you never know what’s going on in someone’s life so compassion is so important.’
And recently one of TWFRS’s highest-ranking firefighters thanked Baz for his service as well as encouraging others to join him. Assistant Chief Officer Lynsey McVay said: ‘Its people like Baz who make our service so fantastic, they are so passionate about their roles and keeping people safe that it can be infectious.
‘It doesn’t matter where you come from, it matters who you are and why you want to help people, that’s what we are interested in.
‘We are continuing with one of the biggest recruitment drives we have ever had and want to encourage others to consider a career with us.
‘Regardless of your age, gender, race, religion or sexuality, there is a home for you here in Tyne and Wear so get on our website and apply to become part of the team.’
TWFRS are currently recruiting for whole time firefighters on their website.