20th November 2018
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Appeal for new fire service recruits

The fire service in Shetland is seeking to recruit retained firefighters throughout the isles and for the first time is making recruit training available locally.

Recruits are being sought from Unst to Fair Isle for an occupation that is very fulfilling, according to Scottish Fire and Rescue Service group manager for Shetland Derek Wilkie. He is appealing to people who may never have thought about the work to now consider it.

This could be women or “slightly older” people – there is no upper age limit, although a certain level of fitness is required.
Mr Wilkie said: “We’re appealing to everybody who lives and works in their community, even if it’s something they hadn’t thought of.”

Stations across Shetland are looking for personnel available during the day, when many people are out at work and sometimes out of the area, although applicants available at any time would be welcome too.

The service is holding four recruitment campaigns in the isles, the second of which started on Monday. The first had a positive response, with eight new recruits set to join up. Four campaignswill be held every year from now on, making for a “streamlined” process of around 10 weeks from point of application to joining the station.

In the past the issue of having to go south for training proved a stumbling block for many people interested in becoming firefighters. But now, Mr Wilkie said, training is being held in Shetland with a trainer coming up from the mainland – the first two-week training course for local recruits will take place next month.

Mr Wilkie said recruits are needed for 11 stations across the isles – Bixter, Bressay, Fair Isle, Fetlar, Hillswick, Sumburgh, Walls, Scalloway, Baltasound, Brae and Lerwick. Training is at Sumburgh or Lerwick, and accommodation can be arranged for people from the outer isles.

None of these stations is in a particularly serious staffing situation, but people leave or retire, making for “an ever-changing environment”, and it is important for all the stations to be up to strength. He said: “Our objective is to be able to send appliances out 24/7.”

Applicants will have selection testing, which includes a fitness test and a medical, but there is no exam criteria.
Initial recruit training allows personnel to be an “effective crew member” of their station, and further training in breathing apparatus is normally undertaken within 12 months of the initial training. This is also for a two week period, but is only held at Sumburgh.

In the past all breathing apparatus training has been held on the mainland, but since being installed in 2012, the training area at Sumburgh has been upgraded and now is a “great facility”.

Mr Wilkie said the training is to a high standard, which not only benefits the trainee but also their employer in their other walk of life. Trainees learn about fire fighting equipment, fire safety awareness, first aid and teamwork with people from all walks of life, besides being able to help their community in an emergency.

He said: “It’s extremely rewarding, knowing you’re helping someone in their moment of need.”

He added: “Every time [we go out] we want to do the best we can and maintain that professionalism throughout the length of the incident. That’s down to the training of the personnel.”

There is a retainer payment of up to £2,905 per year for availability, however if firefighters go to any incidents there is an additional hourly payment provided. Personnel attending training courses or training evenings are also paid an hourly rate over and above their retainer payment.

About Rosalind Griffiths

I am a Shetland Times reporter covering news, including health stories, and features. I have been in Shetland for more than 30 years.

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