RETAINED firefighters were hailed by officials for their unwavering commitment in protecting rural communities.
Crews at Lochaline and Fort William met with MSP Annabelle Ewing, Deputy Chief Officer Iain Bushell and Local Senior Officer John MacDonald on Tuesday, August 1.
The teams work to protect homes and businesses and respond to emergencies such as fires, floods, road traffic collisions and wildfires.
Speaking after the visit, Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs Annabelle Ewing said: “The work done by the RDS and volunteer firefighters is excellent and vital in keeping our remote and rural communities safe.
“Retained fire crews are at the very heart of their communities, which is so clearly demonstrated here at Lochaline where the school and station share a campus.
“It is also hugely impressive to see how many of the crew are women and that the station staff include family members.
“The SFRS is always looking for people to join its RDS crews and I hope that seeing the good work of these extraordinary people encourages even more to come forward.”
Retained firefighters are part-time crews who respond to exactly the same incidents as their full-time colleagues including severe weather and chemical incidents.
They are ordinary people in extraordinary roles who can be doing their day job one minute and saving lives the next.
Lochaline Fire Station is built alongside the local school and the head teacher Keith Adams is also a part-time firefighter.
Watch Manager Lesley Jones runs a local shop but also leads a nine-strong crew, made up of five women and four men, including her partner Rob and daughter Sarah.
The grandmother, 62, has racked up more than 20 years with the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service.
WM Jones said: “We are firefighters who provide a service by the community, for the community and work as part of a team – we have drive and dedication.
“There’s a difference between knowing that something needs done and stepping up to actually do it and if you are that kind of person then you should be a retained firefighter.
“Outside of raising a family, it’s probably the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done in my life and if you’re looking for a role that offers a lasting sense of purpose, friendship and fulfilment in yourself then this is surely it.”
Fort William Watch Manager Chris Findlay has been a firefighter since 1988 and has played a leading role in helping tackle hundreds of incidents including major wildfires.
He added: “Being a retained firefighter is just about the best thing you can do for your community.
“For many it’s not just a job but a calling, and in a small community the people you help can sometimes be people you know which makes it all the more worthwhile.”
SFRS Local Senior Officer John MacDonald praised retained firefighters across the area and encouraged others to step up and protect their communities.
LSO MacDonald said: “Retained firefighters show that anyone can make a difference – all it takes is commitment.
“They make up around 80 per cent of frontline firefighters across the Highland area and truly are the backbone of the SFRS.
“For many rural communities, recruiting RDS staff remains a challenge but we are working towards future solutions that are more responsive and flexible to the needs of these communities while maintaining community and firefighter safety and I encourage people from all walks of life to broaden their horizons and learn new skills by signing up.”
The SFRS has around 8,000 firefighters in Scotland – retained crews account for roughly 40 per cent of them.
Candidates must be aged 18 years or over, have a good level of physical fitness and the required standard of vision and colour perception.
They need to live or work within five-to-eight minutes of the fire station.
In return RDS firefighters are paid an annual fee plus additional payments for every incident attended and time spent on all activity including training nights, community engagement and courses.
Anyone interested in applying can get more information by speaking to someone at their local fire station or visiting the SFRS website: www.firescotland.gov.uk/work-with-us/join-us-as-a-retained-firefighter.aspx