Staffing crisis at retained stations

Retained fire stations in Deeside and Donside are seeking new part-time staff to cover a shortage in numbers.

Grampian Fire and Rescue Service’s (GFRS) head of operations, Andy Coueslant, urged anyone considering becoming a part-time firefighter to apply, after revealing that 10 stations across the region were undermanned.

Retained Duty Service firefighters live and work close to local fire stations and respond to pager calls when an incident arises. They recive an annual retaining fee of up to £2,786, in addition to an hourly rate of up to £12.72 when called out and for performing other role-related duties.

A GFRS spokeswoman said: “We are always actively recruiting. We struggle for day time cover Monday to Friday, as employers won’t release their employees.”

Deeside and Donside have a number of retained stations including Aboyne, Alford, Ballater, Balmoral, Banchory, Braemar and Strathdon.

Banchory Fire Station watch manager Roddy Lees, who has 26 years’ service, said they currently had 19 retained staff, but had been as low as 14 in the past.

“We are one of the fortunate ones, as it’s pretty bad in other areas,” he said. “There is no industry in some of the towns fire stations are in, so people are going outwith the town and then there’s no cover.

“I would encourage employers to let their employees join, but at the moment, every penny counts and some employers don’t like to let people go for one or two hours.

“However, there is a lot of job satisfaction and the different skills you learn are a bonus to employers, such as first aid, mechanical skills, discipline and motivation. A lot of people join simply to do good in their community.

“Call outs do vary but at Banchory, for example, we had a call out on August 30, but then we weren’t out again until last week - 20 days later - then we had six since then. We were out at 5am today to a false alarm, so that didn’t affect anyone’s working hours.”

He said retained firefighters, who must be over 18 and with a good level of fitness, would attend a 10-day training course at Portlethen, then after six months, attend an eight-day breathing apparatus course.

Anyone interested in becoming a retained firefighter is asked to call GFRS recruitment hotline (24 hours) on (01224) 788700.