Rescuing a diabetic cat stuck up a tree... that was one of our stranger call-outs
In the 1960s, the whole village knew when Billesdon's firefighters were being called into action. A loud siren would echo through the rural streets and turn the heads of the few hundreds residents.
One girl in particular, Helen Phillips, who was about six at the time, remembers the alarm ringing through the playground at her local primary school and recalls the first time thoughts of becoming a firefighter flashed through her head.
"I remember the siren which called all the firefighters to the station," she said.
"These were the days before pagers and mobile phone – and I remember thinking, 'ooh, the fire engine is going out' – it was always exciting.
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"I was only about five or six at the time and that memory has always stuck with me."
It was only years later that Helen, 54, now watch manager at Billesdon fire station, decided to act on her dream of joining the fire service.
She was the first female retained firefighter in the county when she signed up in 1992, aged 33. Now, she runs the station she used to gaze up at as a child and recently received her 20 years' long service medal at a ceremony to honour the dedicated men and women who have stuck with it.
"It's not an easy job," she said. "I do about 140 hours a week, which means I'm on call pretty much all the time.
"We get about two or three call-outs a week, which doesn't sound like a lot, but they can come at any time and you've always got to be ready."
The fire station which is retained (part-time) has always struggled to find people to staff it.
"Everyone is doing a lot more than they should because there are only eight of us and there should be 14," said Helen.
"That's the problem with small places such as Billesdon. We had a bit of interest and a couple of applications which is great and should boost our numbers, but it takes about a year to go through the process."
Once the new recruits are under Helen's wing, they can expect a varied career in firefighting.
Although the surrounding area is mainly peppered with farms, fields and open spaces, the team never knows what is coming next.
Helen said: "The jobs we go on are variable, it could be a road traffic collision or something to do with animals.
"We had a pony stuck in a swimming pool once and a diabetic cat stuck up a tree – which was one of the stranger call-outs.
"It had been up there all night and we got the call at about midnight.
"I don't know how the owner knew it was diabetic, but it seemed fine. As soon as I bought it down and handed it to the owner it shot off.
"The challenge is always enjoyable even if the end result isn't always what you hope for.
"Traffic collisions can be very mentally draining – it's the human element that gets you.
"Sometimes they're very hard to deal with and you find yourself dwelling on them.
"But we get strength from other members of the team – we'll sit round and have a cup of tea and talk about it, which helps a bit."
Helen, who manages to fit her landscaping job around her station commitments, is one of only handful of female firefighters in Leicestershire.
"I've never thought that I've been treated any differently to the male firefighters.
"I joined when I was a bit older, which meant I had a stronger head on my shoulders, which may have helped, but I can't think of a time when I've felt different for being a woman."
The 54-year-old said she loved the rewarding feeling the job gives her and, every now and then, small elements of the role make her smile.
"We got a letter from the pony's owner, which was nice. Apparently it was recovering well and eating hay in the stable again.
"It's the little things like that which make it all worthwhile."