Recruitment drive to find firefighters for top team

Steve Blackledge and Jonny Maxwell at the training drill at Chorley Fire Station
Steve Blackledge and Jonny Maxwell at the training drill at Chorley Fire Station
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Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service is on the look-out for new recruits to join its part-time crew at the new Chorley Fire Station in Euxton.

KAY TAYLOR spoke to some of the retained firefighters based at the old Chorley site, to see what it takes to do the job while juggling other work.

A caretaker from Astley Hall and a university student may not seem like they have a lot in common, but that’s one of the unique things about being part of a retained fire crew.

The 16 members of Chorley’s part-time crew juggle their fire fighting duties with other jobs, but they’re all united by the fact that they live just minutes apart from one another, and they have a shared ambition to support the full-time (or whole time) crews do their jobs.

In fact, the criteria of having to live no further than a five-minute journey away from the old fire station in Weldbank Lane means that often, the retained crew are first at the scene.

The whole time crews are based at the training centre in Euxton now, where the new Chorley fire station has opened, and the old one is mainly used for training purposes.

There’s still a fire engine there, which covers the whole Chorley area (and beyond) but by April next year the part-time crews will also have relocated to the new station at Euxton.

This means that 12 out of the 16 retained crew members will no longer fit the criteria of living within five minutes of the station, and the service is looking for people from Euxton and Astley Village to start signing up to form a new team.

Jonny Maxwell, a 21-year-old who has just graduated from his fire and leadership course at university, said: “I took on the role 14 months ago, because I wanted to get practical experience.

“I want to be a firefighter full-time, but there are no vacancies at the moment.

“It was a struggle balancing my studies and the retained work at first, and I was sometimes really tired after being called out during the night, but you get used to it.

“You let them know which hours you can cover, and I’d say I get called out about twice a week normally.

“We do everything the full-time crews do - there’s no difference really.

“I’ve been to road collisions, house fires, garden fires, and even someone trapped in a lift once.”

Jonny, from Claremont Avenue, added: “I just wanted to see what the job was like, and even if I don’t get a full-time job as a firefighter at the end of it, it’s still a brilliant experience.

“There’s nothing like being in a fire engine going to an incident. It’s such a rush.

“I used to watch fire engines going past my house when I was younger, because we lived near a fire station, so it’s something I’ve always wanted to do.

“It’s actually not as busy as I expected it to be though - all I’d seen really was stuff on TV.

“We have a drill training session once a week, and I’ve enrolled on a few health and safety courses.

“I actually think being retained is more rewarding that being a full-time firefighter, because you’re actually helping people in your own communities. It could even be your family or friends.”

Crew manager Steve Blackledge, who has been with the retained crew for five years after being made redundant from his job at Leyland Trucks in 2009, also works as a caretaker at Astley Hall.

“I work mornings at Astley Hall, and in the afternoons I’m here at the station,” he said. “There’s a lot of background work to do as crew manager, such as preparation for drills and doing leaflet drops for the recruitment drive.

“We also hold monthly open evenings at Washington Hall to help us recruit more retained members.”

Steve, 47, from Devonshire Road, added: “I originally applied to be a full-time crew member, and then this vacancy came up.

“It’s always been my ambition to be a firefighter, so I thought it was worth going for it.

“It’s good because you learn to do things which not a lot of people can do, and a lot of skills are relevant to real life as well.

“I was off duty once when I saw a motorcyclist come off his bike in Adlington.

“He was really badly injured and I managed to stabilise him and get him ready for the paramedics, which really helped to reassure his family.

“Things like that mean a lot to people.”

Steve admits the night time call-outs were a shock to the system at first, and he has to lay his clothes out ready to get them on and jump in the car so he can be at the station within five minutes of his pager going off.

“I’d like to have a go at this full-time, but I’m happy with this balance for now,” he said. “With the retained crews, it feels like a tight-knit team and there’s a lot of camaraderie.”

If you’re interested in signing up, contact the new station on 01257 262919 for more details.