Baker uses his loaf to recruit on-call firefighters

Local baker and firefighter Rob Boswell will be serving up bread and cakes in paper bags advertising on-call firefighter recruitment from his bakery in Sawston as well as five additional bakeries across South Cambridgeshire, East Cambridgeshire and Fenland in a bid to get others to join him in being an on-call firefighter.

It is hoped the adverts will help swell the number of on-call firefighters to help keep the local fire engines with an available crew.

The shortage of on-call firefighters is part of a national issue faced by fire and rescue services across the UK, in part because of the requirement for them to live or work within five minutes of the local fire station.

Station Commander Wayne Swales came up with the idea for the bakery recruitment bags after being involved with a similar scheme in Cambridge a few years back where the fire service needed to organise home safety visits for people aged over 60. The free service was advertised through stickers on prescription bags.

“We had the most targeted activity we have ever seen, getting into the houses of the right people we needed to get into. So I sat down with the crew at Sawston and asked how we could do that from a recruitment perspective. As a local baker as well as an on-call firefighter, Rob was keen to help.”

Rob owns Boswell and Sons with his dad, Phillip, and has been an on-call firefighter in Sawston since 2008 and has already been approached by an old school friend about becoming an on-call firefighter after he was handed a bag at the bakery.

He said: “I think it’s a great idea. Local people go into the local shop and that’s what the fire service needs – local people from the villages to join up.”

When he first joined the Service, there were 14 on-call firefighters in Sawston but now there are only five. A fire engine needs a minimum crew of four in order to attend an incident.

Even though he has to fit his on-call role around sometimes unsocial hours, Rob says on-call is a great job.

“It’s a good job for anybody to do. It’s interesting, gives you new skills, you meet people, you get to help people and you get a bit of extra money too. I really like the variety of the work. It has given me totally different skills to what I have in the bakery - things like first aid, management skills and people skills. It’s rewarding to learn new things and help people.

“I’m lucky because I have staff who can step in if I have to go out. The people I work with, and my Dad, have had to be understanding.”

Boswell’s on-call recruitment bakery bags will be given out in towns and villages where four of CFRS’s on-call stations are based - Sawston, Ely, Chatteris and Linton, as well as Waterbeach and Willingham.

Group Commander Gary Mitchley said: “The bakery bags are a really innovative idea. We welcome anything that helps us recruit more on-call firefighters. It is more of a challenge to recruit on-call firefighters now because there are no longer as many people living and working in the same area. People’s work life balance has also changed.”

Sam Sanderson, On-Call Recruitment Officer for CFRS, said: “Not everyone knows what on-call is and our biggest challenge is that people don’t think they can do it. They often think they are too old or not fit enough or that they are not the kind of person we are looking for but as long as they have a good all-round level of fitness, there are no restrictions on height or weight. As for age, more than 45% of our on-call firefighters are 40 or older. We have all ages apply, from as young as 18 to people in their 60s.”

She added: “Anyone who becomes an on-call firefighter will be part of a team giving back to their community. They will get the opportunity to do things that they won’t get to do in any other area of their life. They respond to a variety of incidents including fires, animal rescues, road traffic collisions and flooding.”

Most on-call stations have an ongoing on-call recruitment plan but priority is currently being given to recruitment in Sawston, Cottenham, Ely, Sawtry, Yaxley and St Ives.

Anyone wishing to find out more about becoming an on-call firefighter should visit the Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service website here.