Nick Herbert backs drive to recruit part-time firefighters

Arundel & South Downs MP Nick Herbert has given his strong backing to moves to step up recruitment of part-time, or ‘retained’, firefighters in West Sussex.

His comments came following the release of figures showing that retained fire appliances in West Sussex are unavailable for an average of nearly one day in five.

During May 2008, retained fire appliances were ‘Off the Run' in West Sussex for 17.77 per cent of the total hours available to them.

Appliances are ‘Off the Run' for a variety of reasons, but the most significant problem has been the shortage of retained firefighters to crew them.

West Sussex County Council warned over a year ago that "difficulties in recruiting have led to some fire engines being unavailable or ‘Off the Run' due to crewing shortages."

Some towns and villages are more badly affected.  Arundel's frontline appliance is one of five in the County with the highest number of hours Off the Run.  According to BBC South, since the station was reopened in 2007, the engine has been unavailable for daytime emergencies more often than it has been available.  Last month, it was unavailable for two days out of three.

West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service operate from 28 fire stations across the County, 19 of which are staffed entirely by retained firefighters.  The other nine stations rely, in part, on retained firefighters.

Retained firefighters work part-time and are paid for their services.  They are fully trained and form an essential part of the fire cover provided in local communities.  Like their full-time colleagues, retained firefighters deal with fires, road traffic accidents, flooding incidents and chemical spillages.

The newly-appointed County Fire Officer for West Sussex, Max Hood, confirmed that the West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service was looking for new retained firefighters at its fire stations.  He told Mr Herbert that "applications are welcome from all sections of the community and everyone should see themselves as a potential retained firefighter.

"Retained firefighters provide an essential community service which provides great job satisfaction and really contributes to communities locally and across the County", he said.

Mr Hood added: "Retained firefighters are paid and we provide full training, giving applicants a whole new set of skills.  For those who are already in work, employers of retained firefighters also gain significant benefit from the skills and confidence that being a retained firefighter brings."

Nick Herbert commented: "I am concerned to learn that fire appliances are unavailable for such a significant period of time.  I appreciate that cover during these periods is provided by nearby appliances, but clearly this is a highly unsatisfactory situation."

Mr Herbert added: "I want to lend my strong support to the West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service in their attempts to recruit more retained firefighters who do such a fantastic job for local people.  The individuals who enlist for this job really do perform a vital service for their local community.

"I hope that, when people realise what pressure their local fire stations are under, more applicants will come forward."

Ends

 

Notes for Editors

1. For details on how to become a retained firefighter in West Sussex, visit http://www.westsussex.gov.uk/ccm/content/emergency-services/west-sussex-fire-and-rescue-service/recruitment/retained-duty-system-firefighters.en.

2. For the news release issued by West Sussex County Council in September 2007, publicising an event to attract new volunteers to serve as retained firefighters and warning that recruitment difficulties were causing fire appliances to be Off the Run, visit http://www.westsussex.gov.uk/ccm/content/your-council/news-room/press-releases/2007/2007-09/have-a-go-at-being-a-firefighter.en;jsessionid=a2Ky6q3Yha.

3. For a report on BBC South Today, visit http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/7827374.stm.

Ed Barker