Wooler Community Fire Station is struggling to recruit retained firefighters due to the nature of the job, the patch and the demographic.
Speaking to Wooler Parish Council on Monday night, station manager Neville Craigs said that recruiting retained firfighters was a national problem that was particularly hard to overcome in Wooler.
He said: “At the start of the year we had 12 personnel, now we are down to seven, soon to be six. During the last few years we have had a good recruitment campaign, but we didn’t have anyone on the last course and we’re losing people – it’s a national problem; people have to be available. Because of that they might not have a job when they join, then they get a job and leave, or they have a job and their employer doesn’t want them to do it.”
Retained firefighters from Berwick and Belford have been helping out, but it isn’t the perfect solution. “We want enough staff to make sure that our appliance is available 24/7,” Neville explained.
Les Embleton, group manager for Northumberland FRS, said: “It’s not just a Wooler issue, it’s an issue across the county and nationally. It’s a retained system, so people move on and away.”
Worried they will be left in the lurch, employers often don’t support retained fire fighters. But Les said: “Looking at the stats for the last few years we don’t get called out that often. Retained firefighters are given the same skills that a full-time firefighter would have, which can be a real benefit to an employer.”
Becoming an on-call fire-fighter allows room for another job. All that is required is two hours per week for training and being able to attend call-outs and community safety work. You must live or work no further than 5-6 minutes travel time from the station.
Wooler watch manager Cindy Crossman said: “I have done it for 14 years and I love it. It’s a good job and helping people is fulfilling.”
For more information go too www.northumberland.gov.uk/fire.