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Service reveals shortfall of ‘vital’ retained firefighter roles in Norfolk

PUBLISHED: 10:14 02 October 2017 | UPDATED: 11:09 04 October 2017

(L-R): County councillor William Richmond, MP George Freeman, fire chief David Ashworth, and chair of Breckland council Kate Millbank. Photo: Jessica Frank-Keyes

(L-R): County councillor William Richmond, MP George Freeman, fire chief David Ashworth, and chair of Breckland council Kate Millbank. Photo: Jessica Frank-Keyes

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Norfolk fire and rescue service (NFRS) are recruiting for 73 retained firefighter vacancies across the county.

Firefighters on a training excercise in Heacham. Photo: Paul Tibbs Firefighters on a training excercise in Heacham. Photo: Paul Tibbs

Retained firefighters are described as a “vital part of today’s fire and rescue service”.

A spokesman for the NFRS said that the current amount of vacancies: “equates to 14pc of positons being vacant”.

Sandringham fire station has the most vacancies in Norfolk, with eight positions available. Outwell station has six vacancies, while Attleborough, Hingham, and Wells have five each.

A spokesman for the service said: “We have enough firefighters to operate safely and effectively, but having maximum numbers would allow us to improve our response standards and resilience.

(L-R): County councillor William Richmond, MP George Freeman, chair of Breckland council Kate Millbank, and fire chief David Ashworth. Photo: Jessica Frank-Keyes (L-R): County councillor William Richmond, MP George Freeman, chair of Breckland council Kate Millbank, and fire chief David Ashworth. Photo: Jessica Frank-Keyes

“Modern lifestyles and working pressures make recruiting and keeping staff harder.

“We welcome enquiries from anyone who feels they can make a contribution.

“The role is so diverse these days and firefighting only makes up a small part of a modern firefighter’s job. We are happy to talk to men and women from all walks of life.”

The job of a retained firefighter consists of providing 24/7 cover from their homes and work places, in case of emergency.

Firefighters tackled a blaze in Mundham, Norfolk, earlier this year. Photo: Nick Butcher Firefighters tackled a blaze in Mundham, Norfolk, earlier this year. Photo: Nick Butcher

However, NFRS have said: “In some circumstances, where someone works in a town or village and lives too far to provide full cover, they may be considered to provide day cover”.

Mid-Norfolk Conservative MP, George Freeman, said: “I make it my business to visit the front line of all public services, and Dereham fire station is a precious resource for all of us.

I’ve committed to help the chief fire office with the recruitment program for new retained fire officers. Its a very exciting role in our community, which I’ll be working with him to promote in the coming months.”

Retained development officer, Brett Hopcroft, said: “We’re always going to have people leave the service, especially retained firefighters, due to their jobs, families or retirement.”

(L-R): County councillor William Richmond, MP George Freeman, fire chief David Ashworth, and chair of Breckland council Kate Millbank. Photo: Jessica Frank-Keyes (L-R): County councillor William Richmond, MP George Freeman, fire chief David Ashworth, and chair of Breckland council Kate Millbank. Photo: Jessica Frank-Keyes

He added that the service intends to widen its recruitment pool, and “do some positive action, especially for women. We can upskill people who are really keen to get involved. Part of what we’re trying to do, is [to say] if you want to be a firefighter, talk to us – and we will upskill you.

He added: “The job satisfaction is immense – I have saved lives. There are people walking around this earth today who wouldn’t be here without me and my colleagues.”

Fire chief officer for Norfolk, David Ashworth, said: “We’ve got to fit more around the individual needs, rather than what we as a service need.

“We’ve got to adapt and change what we currently do.”

Tim Tilbrook, parish councillor for Sandringham, which currently has 50pc of its 16 retained firefighter positions vacant, said he hadn’t heard of any issues arising as a result of the vacancies. He added: “Its an interesting figure. In my experience, people who have been retained firefighters have thoroughly enjoyed it.

“Its a community service and you do get a bit of money for it, so I’d certainly encourage people to put their names forward.”

Recruits to the retained fire service would start with an initial intensive two week training course.

A retained firefighter remains in development for their first two years with the service. They are required to undertake further training, and attend drill nights.

Recruits are paid a retainer in addition to an hourly rate when called out on a job.

MP and fire chief meet to discuss issues faced by the service in Norfolk

MP George Freeman met with fire chief, David Ashworth, to discuss the challenges - including recruitment - faced by the fire service across Norfolk.

At the meeting, on Friday, September 29, at Dereham fire station, they discussed issues including the current government policy for a 1pc pay rise for public sector workers, and key areas of focus for the service including recruitment, training, and development.

David Ashworth said that despite “a big push under the Labour government for regionalisation, which didn’t quite hit the spot”, NFRS is “one of the most efficient services in the county”.

He described it as “high-performing and cost effective” and added that Dereham’s availability, at 98.5pc, is one of the highest.

He added that challenges faced by the service include ambiguity over who is responsible for flooding, pressure on the urban search and rescue service, and budgetary issues.

Retained firefighter vacancies by station

Acle - 11/12

Attleborough - 7/12

Aylsham - 11/12

Cromer - 15/16

Dereham RDS - 14/16

Diss - 16/16

Downham Market - 10/12

East Harling - 10/12

Earlham RDS - 12/12

Fakenham - 15/16

Gorleston RDS - 12/12

Great Yarmouth RDS - 10/12

Harleston - 12/12

Heacham - 8/12

Hethersett - 11/14

Hingham - 7/12

Holt - 11/12

Hunstanton - 8/12

Kings Lynn RDS - 12/14

Loddon - 9/12

Long Stratton - 11/12

Martham - 11/12

Massingham - 9/12

Methwold - 11/12

Mundesley - 10/12

North Walsham - 11/12

Outwell - 6/12

Reepham - 11/12

Sandringham -8/16

Sheringham - 12/13

Stalham - 10/12

Swaffham - 9/12

Terrington - 8/12

Thetford RDS - 18/20

Wattton - 11/12

Wells - 7/12

Wroxham - 12/12

West Walton - 10/12

Wymondham - 17 /21

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