Fire Service welcomes new retained recruits
19 April 2011
CAMBRIDGESHIRE Fire and Rescue Service has recently welcomed five new retained firefighters to stations around the county.
Liam Evans (20) from Huntingdon, Chris Allcock (29) from March, Gabe Hearnshaw (30), Gyasi Rolston (29) from Sawston and James Goodall (22) from Ely all joined the Service in March this year, having completed their initial two week training course at the Training Centre in Huntingdon.
A retained firefighter is on-call, meaning they may be at home or at their full time job when they receive a pager alert, when they jump into action and get ready to deal with any incident. They are fully trained and skilled professionals who save lives in their communities.
The new recruits are all now on-call, ready to join their crews and attend emergencies in their local communities. In about six months, after they have received practical experience and attended incidents they will attend Breathing Apparatus (BA) training, after which they will be able to play a bigger role in incidents. This is part of the ongoing training and development given to retained firefighters.
All of the new recruits have full time jobs, and many are on call during while they are at work. The retained duty system relies on the support of local employers, who recognise the importance of allowing their staff to respond to incidents. There are also benefits to the employer and employee as retained firefighters receive new skills and training which they may be able to use in their full time jobs as well.
Liam Evans - Huntingdon
Firefighting is something that Liam Evans (20) has always wanted to do. Liam said: "It's been my dream job for as long as I can remember, and I applied as soon as I lived close enough to the station.
"Once I applied the recruitment process went really quickly, and the recruitment team were brilliant in keeping me informed through every part of the process."
Liam is a firefighter at Huntingdon, and is on call when he is at home as well as when he is working as a lifeguard at One Leisure in Huntingdon.
Liam said: "It's really helped that my employer has been so understanding and supportive in allowing me to go on call when I'm at work.
"The two jobs compliment each other as well. I already had first aid knowledge through my job, but the two week training course means I'm even more confident in emergency first aid. I've also noticed a definite improvement in my leadership and communication skills already."
"The training course was the best two weeks of my life, it was fantastic to finally get out there and do what I've wanted to do for such a long time."
Once Liam had completed his training, his first call was to a large garage fire in Thorney.
He said: "This was a really interesting first incident because of the size of the fire and the dangerous acetylene cylinders involved, which meant nearby houses had to be evacuated.
"I was on the Incident Command Unit (ICU) which meant I wasn't involved with firefighting but it gave me a chance to see a large incident from a command perspective.
"Before I got that first call I was obviously quite nervous, but once I got on the engine that changed to excitement, and the whole team were really supportive which helped a lot."
Chris Allcock - March
Chris (29) had visited the station and talked to firefighters at local events several times before he began the recruitment process, so he had a good idea of what was involved when he applied to join March Fire Station as a retained firefighter.
Chris said: "Being a firefighter has always appealed to me, and a lot of my friends and family work for the emergency services.
"Working as a retained firefighter gives me the best of both worlds, with the excitement and pride that comes with working for the fire service as well as keeping my current job as a train driver for GB Railfreight.
"Obviously being a train driver would make it very difficult to be on call when I'm at work but I live a few minutes from March Fire Station so I'm on call on my rest days.
"My employer has been very supportive, and allowed me to bulk my rest days together for the initial training, and I'll be able to do this again for my Breathing Apparatus (BA) training in September."
The initial two week training course has already had a positive effect on Chris. He said: "I feel like I've learnt new skills already, and I would feel more confident now in my personal life in helping someone who was in trouble with first aid for example.
"I'm also a lot more fire safety conscious, I've found myself constantly checking the fire extinguishers at work.
Chris has already been called out, to a rescue from a lift, and he was forced to drop his shopping and run out of his local supermarket when he got the call.
He said: "I got a few funny looks and I had to shout at the security guards that I was a firefighter, so it was quite an exciting first shout."
Chris has three children, Sophie (8), Felicity (7) and Kian (1), who are all very proud of their dad. He said: "I spend any free time I get with my family.
"Obviously being on call and working full time means I get a bit less time to myself, but I actually think that being on call gives me more time to spend with my family, as I spend more time at home in case I'm called out, which means when I'm not called out I can spend the time with my kids."
Gabe Hearnshaw - March
Gabe (30) applied to join March Fire Station as soon as he heard they were looking for retained firefighters.
He said: "I have wanted to be a firefighter since I was a little kid so I jumped at the chance.
"The training was really good but tough, which is what I expected. It was demanding but enjoyable. As soon as I'd finished the training it was a nervous and excited wait for the first shout."
Gabe works for Sainsbury's in March as a stock controller, though he's also in charge of PR and Health and Safety for the store.
He said: "They've been really supportive. As a company we do like to get involved in the local community and local charities, and this is just another aspect of that. And of course I'm developing loads of new skills which will help with the day job."
Vicki Beard, Deputy Store Manager at Sainsbury's said: "We were more than happy to support Gabe in becoming a firefighter. We are very much part of the local community, and retained firefighters are a vital part of the local community so supporting this system is something we like to do."
Gabe likes to keep busy, and is a keen semi professional photographer. He also keeps active through mountain biking and martial arts, and thinks that his job as a firefighter will fit in well with this active lifestyle.
Gyasi Rolston - Sawston
Gyasi (29) is already a wholetime firefighter in London so he had a good idea of what was involved when he applied to be a retained firefighter in Sawston.
Gyasi said: "I've been a firefighter in London for three years now and I love it, so when I recently moved to Sawston I visited the station to find out if they needed retained firefighters."
Because he is already a firefighter, Gyasi did not need the two week training course, but still needed a week to familiarise himself with the equipment used in Cambridgeshire.
He said: "Overall the job is the same, but there are a few little differences in some of the language used and equipment."
Gyasi has two children, eight year old Jayden and four year old Pharrell, who live with him when he is not on call in London, and who are already very proud of their dad's job.
In his spare time Gyasi likes to stay healthy. He said: "I love fitness and always have, it was part of the reason I wanted to be a firefighter as it¿s such an active job.
"I like to keep healthy and go to the gym when I have spare time, as it does help with the job, and is also a great way to relax."
James Goodall - Ely
James (22) has recently returned to Ely after graduating from Anglia Ruskin University and decided it was a good opportunity to join the fire service.
James said: "I wanted to become a firefighter because I wanted a rewarding career. I am passionate about helping others and I wanted to wake up and feel a sense of satisfaction and pride in what I do.
"I studied photography at uni and I'd love to do that professionally, so at the moment I'm building up my portfolio and working full time at Sports Direct.
"Apparently I'm the first person at Sports Direct to become a retained firefighter but they've been really supportive about it and my managers have been exceptional.
"The training was awesome, with a really good bunch of people. The training instructors all supported us the whole way, and I learned a lot about myself in just two weeks.
"It was great exercise as well - I managed to lose a stone over the two weeks. I go to the gym regularly and this job should definitely help me stay in shape."
Unfortunately as soon as he completed his training James caught a chest infection so he is still waiting for his first call out.
He said: "I'm nervous about the first shout, but the team at Ely are an incredible bunch of people and have been very welcoming so I know I'll be well supported all the way."