Thursday, 19 October 2017

Mayor joins campaign to recruit retained firefighters

HENLEY fire station is campaigning to recruit more retained firefighters.

Officers have been visiting major businesses in the town and asking their employees to consider signing up.

So far they have spoken to staff at Stuart Turner in Greys Road, Gibbs & Dandy in Reading Road and Invesco Perpetual in Perpetual Park Drive.

The station in West Street is staffed entirely by part-time firefighters who have main jobs during the day but are on call and can be summoned to attend emergencies.

Henley and Wargrave fire stations are both short-staffed and have been sharing cover at weekends since September as part of a trial. If no new candidates come forward, this arrangement may have to become permanent.

Henley fire station employs 10 retained firefighters but needs about 17 to function independently. The shortage means staff have had to work extra shifts to fill gaps in the service and as a result some have quit the service earlier than fire chiefs would like.

Station manager Marcus Reay said: “Fire crews take a lot of pride in their station being at 100 per cent capacity, which has not been the case at Henley for a while, and they will fight tooth and nail to keep it that way.

“As a station, we want to stand on our own two feet. I think we will be able to get there in a few years, although it may take a little longer than some of the other stations because of where we’re starting from.”

Candidates need to be over 17 years and 10 months and have a reasonable level of fitness. They must pass a series of mental and physical exams at Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service’s headquarters in Didcot. These will test their basic numeracy, problem-solving skills, strength, fitness and ability to work in the dark, at heights and in confined spaces.

Those who make the grade must be available at least once a week for drills at Henley fire station and other venues around Berkshire and Oxfordshire.

They will be taught a range of skills including breathing apparatus, water rescue and protocol for riding on a fire engine.

Although cover is mostly needed at Henley during the day, candidates must be free to work at any time during the week or at weekends.

Mr Reay said employers were not inconvenienced by letting their workers join as most incidents happen in the evenings.

In 2013, Henley’s retained firefighters were called to 55 incidents between 6am and 6pm during the week. Mr Reay said: “The main advantage to employers is the skills that retained firefighters can bring to their business. Individuals will become more disciplined and able to follow instructions, which a lot of companies will like.

“They remain calm under pressure and are trained in first aid and health and safety to a much higher standard than usual. Firefighters are also excellent team players and that quality will benefit anyone who is willing to free them up.

“Employers have so far been more than happy to support us. We just need individuals from those businesses to step up and give it a chance.”

Henley Mayor Stefan Gawrysiak is supporting the recruitment campaign and said: “It is really important that Henley has enough fire cover to protect its residents.

“Staffing levels are much less than they should be so if anyone comes forward it would be really welcomed.”

To find out more about becoming a retained firefighter, call 0800 587 0870 or Mr Reay on 07788 183050.

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