The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service has praised the role of its part-time firefighters as it appeals for more men and women in the North East to join the service.
The service’s group manager for Aberdeenshire, Garry Burnett, told the Buchan Area Committee earlier this month 85 percent of firefighters in the area are part-time.
Officially known as retained personnel, these men and women play a crucial role in supporting their full-time colleagues and can be called away from their work or home life to attend incidents at a moment’s notice.
Now senior officals from the service have praised the work of their retained staff and appealed for more people to apply.
The station manager for Banff and Buchan areas Bruce Milne, who oversees dozens of retained firefighters across the region, spoke to the Buchanie.
He said: “Our retained firefighters display tremendous commitment within their communities.
“The retained duty system is basically part-time and they provide cover in rural areas.
“They could be helping out their community in that way, day or night.
“We’re always looking for men and women to sign up.
“We’re particularly keen to sign up people who can provide cover during the day.
“That might be men and women who are at home while the kids are at school.
“They could provide cruscial cover during the daytime hours.”
Retained firefighters each carry a beeper and must be able to respond to their locally station within eight minutes.
They are trained to the same standard as full-time staff and can respond to all manner of incidents including fires, car crashes, entrapments - either in homes or in industrial machinery - as well as provide community education and home fire safety visits.
Mr Milne stressed that as well as giving a great sense of community satisfaction, the job is not without it’s challenges.
Many retained staff with tackle incidents in their own community, possibly involving friends, neighbours and colleagues.
He continued: “It’s important for the service to support these firefighters by attracting more people to join.
“We have to consider the welfare of those at the station and having more people in to bolster teams and allow greater flexiblity for staff in terms of work life balance.
“I’d like to stress the benefits of the retained duty system for employers - there is no financial cost to them and employees recieve training from the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service worth a significant amount of money in directly transferable skills.
“Having a retained firefighter work for you will bring tangible benefits to a company, as well as to the local community.
“Although there is a committmen from employers to release employees to incidents, given the current level of incidents this is manageable.”
Retained staff learn first aid as well as health and safety skill which can be beneficial for businesses.
Mr Milne oversees a number of stations in Buchan, including the 10-man crew at Maud.
The Maud crew is made up of men from the local area, aged between 20-60, including the owner of the Kindness Bakery, Mark Kindness.
He has served as a retained firefighter for 14 years and told the Buchanie: “I do it for a combination of reasons - it gives you a feel good factor because you’re helping the community and making a difference.
“We do home fire safety visits and we’ve already fitted about 25 smoke detectors and we know that we’ve maybe saved a life there.
“At Maud we’re one of the busiest one-pump stations.
“We did maybe 160 calls last year and we back up a lot of the nearby stations including Peterhead, Fraserburgh and Old Meldrum.
“We’ve also linked up with the ambulance service and in doing that some of the guys on our crew have really pushed the boat out to serce their community in different ways.
“They’re all really good guys who show great commitment by working as firefighters.”
If you would like to find out more about becoming a ‘local hero’ visit the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service website www.firescotland.gov.uk or to complete an application form to join the RDS in the north visit http://bit.ly/1l0Tsy8
To apply, a person must be eligible to work in the UK, be over the age of 18 and live close enough to a station to respond quickly and safely.
Applicants then attend a two -week training course.
Ongoing training and development is provided at the local station once a week and further training is available when necessary. Successful applicants are subject to a Disclosure Scotland criminal record check.