Monday, 02 October 2017 07:26

Concern over firefighter shortage

Written by  Ruralcity Media
Concern over firefighter shortage

A shortage of rural firefighters has triggered a number of recruitment drives to fill vacancies in village fire stations.

It follows concern that not enough people want to become retained or part-time firefighters in smaller and more isolated rural communities.

Local retained fire fighters are seen as filling a vital role in rural communities away from towns with full-time fire crews.

But many village fire stations are finding it increasingly difficult to recruit retained fire fighters for a number of reasons.

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People often commute with their jobs, which means they no longer work in the communities where they live, and are not available to be on call during the day.

At the same time, not all businesses can spare staff as part-time firefighters.

The shortage of retained firefighters is a national issue, according to Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service, which has more than 40 vacancies for retained personnel.

It has also resulted in crews being drafted in from elsewhere to tackle rural fires, according to the local Daily Echo newspaper.

Limited response

Staff shortages meant some village fire stations were only able to offer a limited response and were often out of action during the day, says the paper's website.

The shortage of on-call crews is resulting in increased danger to the public, according to the Retained Firefighters’ Union.

Chief executive Tristan Ashby said: “Some brigades are not doing enough to recruit retained firefighters and Hampshire is one of them.

A spokesman for Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service spokesman said the shortage of retained firefighters was a national issue, rather than a local one.

“Retained recruitment is an ongoing process, not just in Hampshire but throughout the country,” said the spokesman.

Options

“Issues are being addressed by working hard to explore several options, including local advertising campaigns.”

In Wales, the number of part-time firefighters fell to a nine-year low last year – with the biggest drop experienced in North Wales.

A recruitment drive by North Wales Fire and Rescue Service asks people who live or work within five minutes of a fire station to consider becoming a retained firefighter.

It has vacancies for on-call firefighters at a number of its 44 stations.

The fire service is also asking local employers if they can release staff from work, within pre-agreed days and times, to respond to emergency calls.

Firefighters currently include builders, administrators, shopkeepers, nurses, factory workers, self-employed professionals and stay at home parents.

They are all trained to an equally high standard to provide vital on-call fire and emergency cover.

Recruitment

Some firefighters provide cover from home, others from work and some from both and this can be over varying times of the day through the week and weekends.

A similar recruitment campaign last year was so successful that some fire stations now have a holding list of people waiting to fill future vacancies.

But others – particularly rural fire stations – still have vacancies.

Assistant chief fire officer Gary Brandrick explained: “We’re asking people across the region to consider – could you fill these boots?

“On-call firefighters are fully trained, highly skilled and highly valued individuals who save lives and property from fire and other emergency situations.

“They provide expertise at road, rail and aircraft accidents, chemical spillages, flooding, forest, heathland and mountain fires and agricultural accidents.”

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