Since the Grenfell Tower tragedy, firefighters have been seen as the unsung heroes of our society. Their work is not just about putting out fires or saving cats stuck in trees, but they are involved in a huge variety of incidents such as road traffic collisions and rescuing farm animals.
Alsager Community Fire Station is the newest station looking for recruits to join it’s team of thirteen on-call firefighters.
An on-call fire station is staffed by members of the public who already have jobs. So you could get the chance to be a mechanic and a firefighter at the same time!
All firefighters are required to do a minimum of 50 hours of cover a week, where they need to be available to respond to emergencies when required.
Watch Manager at Alsager Community Fire Station, Aaron Collis, told us that it is a challenge but is manageable.
He said: “I think anybody who has worked on the on-call duty system for a long time, will tell you that it’s a very difficult and sometimes very demanding thing to balance with personal life, family life and of course, a primary career that you’re thinking about as well.
“If you want to be a on-call firefighter you have to live very close to the fire station. It is a requirement that all of our firefighters live within a five-minute radius of the fire station, so they’ve got to get here very quickly.
“Our target is to get the fire engine out the doors and on the way to whatever emergency it is, in a five-minute period.”
The training process in Cheshire is at the same standard as any full-time firefighter in England, but the training is spread out, as Collis explains: “The way we have to deliver that [training]needs to be a bit different, as they obviously can’t take an extended period of time away from work.
“What we would normally do is deliver that in several week modules at the start of their career with us and after that we would complete their training – normally over a 12-month period during evening and weekends.”
Once a firefighter has completed their training, candidates undergo a development stage to obtain an NVQ [National Vocational Qualifications] to become a competent firefighter.
Nikki Bugg is an on-call fire fighter at Alsager Community Fire Station, but his primary job is a public service and sport lecturer at Stafford College.
He always wanted to be a firefighter or a P.E. teacher, and now does both after finding out about the on-call system: “I got a flavour of what the fire service is like on the industry days and that kind of gave me a taste of what firefighting is really like.”
Talking about the pressure of working as a firefighter alongside another job, Bugg, said: “There are pressures of your primary job so that takes a lot of your time up and I’ve got a young family as well.
“But it is manageable if you juggle it the right way and they’re really supportive down at the station.
“Not only is it rewarding but it’s enjoyable. So not only are you giving back to the community but you are enjoying it as well.”
Like all firefighters, Bugg went through industry standard training. He said: “The initial training is a few weeks and you have to complete a few modules. If you’ve got a good employer who’s supportive, that’s not too bad, as you do need a bit of time off and if they’re supportive then that’s fantastic.”
Firefighters will start their training at headquarters in Winsford, where they will undertake a couple of weeks of essential drills such as: breathing apparatus, height safety, water safety, road traffic collision training and refreshers that will prepare them for active duty as soon as possible.
The fire service has always been a physically and mentally demanding job, but is one of the most exciting and challenging jobs to do. If this sounds like your sort of thing then you must:
- Live or work within a five minute radius of the Fire Station
- Have a good level of fitness
- Be aged 18+
- Required to attend a weekly training night each Wednesday evening to maintain competence in your role
- There is a reward package circa £5000 pa
For more information visit Cheshire Fire’s website here or alternatively visit Alsager Community Fire Station on Wednesday nights for their training sessions 7-10pm.