Special report: Have what it takes to be a hero? Become an on-call firefighter in Lincolnshire

IT worker and on-call firefighter Julian Turner loves his job, and encourages others to get involved.
IT worker and on-call firefighter Julian Turner loves his job, and encourages others to get involved.
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Have you ever thought about becoming a firefighter, but life has taken you down a different career path?

Well that doesn’t have to be the end of your fire fighting ambitions, as Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue is on the lookout for on-call firefighters at all of its 38 stations across the county.

Recently recruited on-call firefighters during their passing out parade.

Recently recruited on-call firefighters during their passing out parade.

As recruitment manager Jason Lawley says: “On-call firefighters can be anyone – cooks, factory workers, farmers, care workers, home workers, window cleaners, teachers, school caretakers, personal trainers, the list is endless.

“They all do everyday jobs until the emergency call is received and then quite literally they put on their other hat and become professional firefighters. They are frontline life savers and valued members of their communities.”

The key requirement is that all on-call firefighters must be able to get to the fire station within five minutes of a call, and be ready to go out with the crew to emergency situations.

The service recently saw 15 on-call firefighters complete their 11-week training course, and join stations including Grantham and Corby Glen.

Support full-time firefighters in tackling incidents, like the recent substation blaze in Grantham. Photo courtesy of Santa Plata.

Support full-time firefighters in tackling incidents, like the recent substation blaze in Grantham. Photo courtesy of Santa Plata.

Mick Green, deputy chief fire officer at Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue, explains: “Our comprehensive training course is designed to ensure that our recruits are prepared for the demands of being a modern firefighter and are able to start work at their stations right away.

“The course covers many topics, including firefighter basic skills, ladder and pump drills, hydraulics, working from heights, road traffic collisions, occupational first aid, legislation and health and safety.”

One man who decided three years ago to ‘turn-up the heat’ by becoming an on-call firefighter, and hasn’t looked back since, is IT worker Julian Turner. “In my day job things are fairly predictable, but my role as an on-call firefighter couldn’t be more different and that’s why I love it. The adrenaline rush I get on the way to a shout is something you just don’t get to experience working in an office,” he said.

“We deal with such a range of incidents that you really never know what you’re going to be faced with. I’ll be sitting in the fire engine running through all the possibilities in my mind, and I have to admit, that excites me.

“One week I might be rescuing someone from a burning building, the next I might be helping in a road traffic accident or rescuing a pony from a dyke – it really could be anything!

“I remember on a particular stormy night we attended a workshop fire in Bourne. It was pouring down with rain and we were setting up the pumps when a couple of gas canisters in the building exploded. I’ve never seen anything like it. With the lightning as a backdrop it felt totally unreal, like something out of a Hollywood movie.”

Of course, Julian is all too aware that while the role has an element of excitement, ultimately it is about potentially working in life or death situations.

“Being an on-call firefighter is a chance to escape, but there’s also a serious side to it. At the end of the day you are making a real difference to people that you live and work amongst. You might literally save the life of someone you know and for me that’s what it’s all about.

“Whilst the benefits for being a retained firefighter are good, it’s not why we do it. We do it because we love it. We do it because, as cheesy as it sounds, we really do want to give something back to the community. It really is the most rewarding job and I can’t think of anything else I’d rather do.

“That’s what I’d tell anyone who’s thinking of joining us and becoming an on-call firefighter. Don’t worry about whether you’ve got the knowledge and skills to do the job. You’ll go through a training course before joining your station and then you’ll continue to receive on-the-job training and support until you qualify as a fully competent firefighter.

“As long as you are signing up because you’re passionate and willing to put the effort in, that’s all that matters. Just go for it!”

* How much do you earn?

According to an LFR spokesman, as an on-call firefighter you will earn between a £1,651 and £2,202 retainer fee each year, and £10.05 to £13.40 an hour when attending emergency calls and training.

* Where can you learn?

Those interested in joining the fire service are welcome to go along to one of the regular drill nights. Grantham has one every Wednesday, between 7pm to 9.30pm, and Corby Glen has its drill night on Tuesdays, also between 7pm and 9.30pm.

Alternatively if you aren’t able to go to any drill nights or taster sessions, give the recruitment team a call on 0800 358 0204. More details and an application form can also be found at www.lincolnshire.gov.uk/lincolnshire-fire-and-rescue/jobs/become-an-on-call-firefighter

* Less fires, more collisions

The need to recruit more on-call firefighters also highlights how the service has had to change over the years in response to demand.

An LFR spokesman said: “Statistics show that we attend less fires now than in the past five to 10 years. However, our response to non-fire incidents such as road traffic collisions, flooding and medical emergencies has increased.

“Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue Service has diversified to meet the challenges of emergency response and prevention within our communities, and our on-call or retained fire crews have also had to learn new skills to work within this changing environment.

“New equipment, technology and skills are continuously being developed and our staff are required to learn and maintain a wide variety of new and existing skills which not only benefits LFR but also develops individuals which has a significant benefit to their employers away from fire and rescue.”

* Have your say on changes to the fire service

Don’t forget to have your say on the future of your fire and rescue service, as part of the 11-week consulation, ending on May 16.

LFR wants to hear feedback on proposed changes to the way in which the service operates. Fill in the questionnaire at www.lincolnshire.gov.uk/lfr or call 01522 582222 for a copy.

A public open forum on the proposals is taking place at Grantham Fire Station, Harlaxton Road, on April 12 at 6.30pm.