Retained Firefighters Make A Difference

Dave Robinson

I'm Dave Robinson and I'm a Crew Manager at Aboyne, Station R37P6 in North East Scotland. This is my personal view of being a Retained Firefighter, it's not the 'official blurb' from SFRS or any other Fire Service.

Why Did I Join?

My reasons for applying were simple. I'd had a long standing interest in firefighting and had, many years ago, considered becoming a whole-time firefighter with Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service. Unfortunately life and another career got in the way. When I moved to a rural community with a retained station I decided, at the age of 43, to apply, and following success at interview and the various fitness and dexterity tests I was accepted.

Initial Training

The initial 10 day training course was demanding but immensely enjoyable, as was the 8 day breathing apparatus course 6 months later. Both courses are broken into two 4/5 day stints, and they span weekends to minimise the impact on your full-time job. Hot fire training is particularly enjoyable and a real adrenalin rush. It's also physically demanding.

Training is on-going and takes place at weekly drill nights (2.5 hours), regular multi-fire appliance exercises and not least at training weekends at the development centre.

The Required Time Commitment

As a 100% availability member of the team, primarily because I live and work in my community, I'm contractually obliged to provide a minimum of 120 hours of cover per week, I often provide more than this. Whether at work, at play or asleep in the dead of night I can be alerted by my pager to report to the station.

Payment & Leave

I get 35 days annual leave and for 2 days per week (48 hours) I can be off call if I'm at meetings in Aberdeen or away visiting family etc. Between my retaining fee, training payments and of course the payment I receive for attending incidents, being a retained firefighter adds between £5k and £7k to my annual income. Which is nice.

Fire Calls (Shouts)

The number of shouts varies from station to station. Here in Aboyne we get, on average, around 70 fire calls a year. It's common to get 2 or 3 shouts in 1 day and it's also normal to go weeks on end with none. Some stations get significantly more than this and others significantly less.

A shout can be anything from a fire, to a person stuck in a lift, and although it's possible to encounter some challenging situations, for which SFRS offers a counselling service, such incidents are, thankfully, rare.

Being a firefighter means you will find yourself at the sharp end of things and the skills you develop both in training and at shouts are very much transferable in my experience.

What Kind of People Become Retained Firefighters

People from all walks of life become retained firefighters and Aboyne Station R37P6 is no exception. I'm a Chartered Engineer who runs a web company, we also have an architect, building contractors, a head greenkeeper, joiners, a welder, a gas turbine technician and a big bloke who drives an SFRS van around (we don't actually know what he does...).

We may not always agree with each other, we may hold different political views, we may differ in all kinds of ways, but when our pagers go off we become a team, and that's what matters.

And Finally

I find being a retained firefighter, and now Crew Manager, rewarding in many ways. The money's handy, but more importantly the feeling you get when you make a positive difference is hard to beat, it's a feeling you just can't buy. Remember though, it's a very real commitment time wise and something your family needs to be supportive of, but if you are interested I'd say go for it, it's something that will change your life (one way or another!).