Local firefighters’ pride in serving their community

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Despite Banchory Fire Station having ‘retained’ status, its firefighters attended 113 turnouts during 2011, including fires, road accidents and false alarms.

The station, based at Glebe Park, is one of a number of stations across Deeside – and Aberdeenshire – seeking retained (part time) firefighters to help protect their local communities.

Retained firefighters provide a vital service to the communities in which they live or work, providing fire cover to smaller rural towns within Grampian.

They are not based in a fire station but may be at home or out working. When the call comes to their pager, they must respond to the station quickly and safely. Skills they learn can be transferred to their full-time day jobs.

A career as a firefighter is, of course, inherently dangerous, but can also be rewarding, satisfying and advantageous.

Banchory Fire Station has a retained crew of 19, who cover a radius of around 10 miles around the town. The growing community has meant recruitment has been healthy in recent years but they are always keen to expand crew numbers.

This year, the Banchory crew were already called out three times in February and 17 times in March – the latter month being particularly busy with wildfires due to the warm weather, as reported in last week’s Piper.

Watch manager Roddy Lees explained why he still loves the job after 26 years: “I still love the excitement part of the job,” he said. When the pager goes off you do get a buzz and within 10-15 minutes you can be on the scene of a horrible serious RTC (Road Traffic Collision) or a hill fire with eight other fire engines.

“The skills you learn are a big plus as well, including management, health and safety and first aid. If someone collapses in your workplace, you want that employee to be able to deal with it.

“The respect the crew has within the community is also a huge part of joining up.”

Corrina Cox is the only female firefighter at Banchory, having been retained for almost 15 years. She is also qualified to drive an appliance.

“I’ve always wanted to do this and there is also the enjoyment, fulfilment and a sense of satisfaction that I get out of it,” she said. “I’ve learnt first aid and teamwork, which is a must for here.

“As soon as the pager goes off, the adrenaline kicks in you get on with it. It is difficult at times but then you get the jobs that have a nice outcome and there’s always support if you need it after an incident.

“As a retained firefighter, I can now book time off, and that works for me as I’ve got kids. As a mother with children, it’s not easy but I can choose my hours to work round it.”

New firefighter Callum Boyne, 21, of Banchory, works in Morrisons but began as a retained firefighter at Banchory in October.

“Being a firefighter was something I’d always fancied,” he said. “But I didn’t know if I’d be able to do it round my work or studies. I’ve had training on pumps and ladders, RTCs, classroom lectures, fire behaviour and first aid.

“I am loving it. There is constant training and I am going on a Breathing Apparatus (BA) course in July at Portlethen.

“Doing this is putting something back into the community and people in the community get to know you.”

Retained crews can earn an annual retaining fee of up to £2,821 in addition to an hourly rate of up to £12.88 when called out and for performing other role-related duties.

Banchory Fire Station’s drill night is held between 7pm and 10pm every Monday, when the crew meets at the station to run through drills, equipment checks, training and lectures.

Of the 113 incidents Banchory firefighters attended in 2011, 54 were between 8am and 5pm. Retained crews at Ballater attended 60, of which 28 were between 8am and 5pm, Balmoral attended 17, of which 10 were between 8am and 5pm and Braemar crews attended 18 incidents, of which 11 were between 8am and 5pm.

Firefighters can be men or women aged over 18 who either live or work within seven minutes of the fire station. They need to have a certain standard of fitness, though they do not have to be an athlete. Anyone interested in applying can visit www.grampianfrs.org.uk