Positive news over firefighter numbers at village fire station

Firefighter numbers at Prees Fire Station could double in the coming months, with six part-time hopefuls either undergoing testing or training, a service boss has said.

Fire service gives update on village recruits
Fire service gives update on village recruits

Assistant Chief Fire Officer Simon Hardiman told a governing body committee earlier this month that on-call numbers at the station had dropped from 12 to five in the last year.

But Group Manager Adam Matthews told a later meeting four people had expressed an interest in becoming “retained” firefighters and were in talks about applying, with one more due to complete physical and other tests and a sixth already on new recruit training.

A report co-authored by Mr Matthews said Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service had the highest rates of on-call availability in the mainland UK, only beaten by the Isles of Scilly brigade. Shropshire’s county-wide rate is 98.5 per cent so far this year, while Prees’s figure dropped to just over 71 per cent in August.

Mr Matthews told the Shropshire and Wrekin Fire Authority Standards, Audit and Performance Committee: “Prees are currently down to five personnel across the station. We’ve lost another one recently.

“However, I am pleased to say that we’ve got one completing the job-related and physical tests this evening, hopefully with a view to moving through and going on to the next recruits’ course.

“We’ve got one attending the tests at next month’s testing. Again, hopefully, they will be on the next course.

“And we’ve got four individuals who have expressed an interest, and the assistant group commander responsible for Prees is, shall we say, liaising with those and discussing applications.

“‘Touch wood’, we’ve got six individuals, so we could be looking at doubling the numbers at Prees Fire Station over the next few months.”

Committee vice-chairman Pauline Dee congratulated Mr Matthews and the whole service on its on-call performance.

“It’s absolutely fantastic to be the best in the mainland,” she said.

“The work everyone’s doing to make sure our retained stations are fully manned is brilliant, and, from the top to the bottom, I just say thank you for keeping us all so safe.”

At a meeting of the authority’s Strategy and Resources Committee on Thursday, September 17, Councillor Paul Wynn, who represents Prees, said the station could not function “if they lose one more”.

Mr Matthews told this week’s committee meeting that long-term sickness had also impacted numbers at Albrighton Fire Station, but one recruit was in training and another was due to take tests that evening, along with the Prees hopeful. At further recruit is in training and bound for Minsterley Fire Station, he added.

The report, written by Mr Matthews, Area Service Delivery Manager Kevin Faulkner and Chief Fire Officer Rod Hammerton, said the average on-call availability rate had been 98.5 per cent in the first five months of 2020-21, a rise of more than two per cent on the previous year.

But, they wrote, the rate had dropped from 99 and 98.5 per cent in June and July to 95.6 per cent in August.

“The reduction seen in August 2020 is likely due to the easing of restrictions implemented during the Covid-19 pandemic,” the report said.

Mr Matthews told the committee: “At the moment, we are problem seeing that due to the easing of some of the restrictions and some of our staff returning from furlough, back to their primary employment, taking away from the availability.”

Of Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service’s 23 stations, 19 – are solely crewed by on-call staff, while three more have a mix of full-time and on-call firefighters. Telford Central is the only exclusively full-time station.

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