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Fire stations cover deal scrapped
Published 28/04/14



FIREFIGHTERS in Henley are no longer sharing cover with their colleagues in Wargrave.

For the past six months, the stations have been covering each other’s shifts on alternate weekends to make up for staff shortages at both.

A three-month trial was launched in late September and extended for a further three months at Christmas.

Fire chiefs were considering making it permanent but say it is no longer needed as five people have applied to be on-call firefighters at Henley.

If they pass the selection tests, the number of staff at the station in West Street will be back to almost the ideal level.


Henley is manned entirely by on-call firefighters who have another main job but can be called to emergencies at short notice.

There used to be 24 but there are now only 10, of whom only two are experienced enough to command a crew.

Before the trial, the remaining firefighters would often have to work at weekends to fill gaps in the service.

As a result they tended to quit after about five years when the fire service wanted them to stay longer.

The five new recruits will take at least a year to be trained in using breathing apparatus.

They will be able to attend incidents such as road accidents and water rescues but will not be able to tackle fires at first.

The service believes two more firefighters are still needed before Henley can function independently. Until the quota is reached, officers will be sent from other stations within Oxfordshire if a crew needs back-up.

John Nixon, Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service’s risk manager, said the trial had been a success as any calls either station attended had met agreed response standards.

He said: “The intention was always to assist local firefighters and get numbers back up to an acceptable level. At no time was the intention to look at reducing or closing the [Henley] station.

“Things are looking a lot healthier in relation to recruitment... we will revert back to using station personnel where we can. Where they need assistance we will make sure further resources are provided.”

Mr Nixon said the new candidates had come forward following an intensive recruitment campaign by his officers. They approached staff at some of the town’s biggest employers including Stuart Turner in Greys Road, Gibbs & Dandy in Reading Road and Invesco Perpetual in Perpetual Park Drive.

Meanwhile, staffing levels at Wargrave have dropped further in the past six months and it now has only five on-call firefighters.

The Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service plans to launch a recruitment drive.

In the meantime, Henley’s crews will help out in Wargrave if they are needed at specific incidents. This was the usual procedure before the trial.

Anyone aged over 17 years and 10 months can apply to become an on-call firefighter. Candidates must pass a series of mental and physical fitness tests and must be available at least once a week for drills.

To sign up in Henley, call station manager Marcus Reay on 07788 183050. To sign up for Wargrave, call 0118 938 4695.

Published 28/04/14

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