Experiencing life as an on-call firefighter in Staveley amid urgent recruitment drive across Derbyshire

Our reporter was invited to Staveley Fire Station to experience life as an on-call firefighter as the team looks to encourage new recruits.

Wednesday, 13th April 2022, 1:26 pm
Staveley Fire Station are hoping to recruit on-call firefighters to join their team.
Staveley Fire Station are hoping to recruit on-call firefighters to join their team.

At the station, I met Paul Revill, the watch manager of the Staveley on-call crew.

As an on-call team, they are not full-time firefighters, but part-time staff who must live or work within five minutes of the station in order to respond to emergency incidents when alerted by a pager.

As we chatted, I was surprised to hear that not all of Derbyshire’s stations are actually staffed by full-time crews.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Reporter Tom Hardwick being shown how to use the ‘jaws of life’ by on-call firefighter Richard North.

Paul said that Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service run 31 fire stations and 40 fire engines. Of these, 19 stations are crewed by on-call firefighters. Another eight stations have a mixture of on-call and full-time crews, and just four stations are solely crewed by full-time firefighters.

Staveley Fire Station has two crews - one being full-time and the other made up of on-call firefighters. They are looking for additions to their team, but Paul said that recruitment is difficult in Staveley, as many people in the town do not work near enough to the station or they tell themselves that being a firefighter is beyond them.

“There’s less employment here now - people who live in Staveley are working in Chesterfield, Mansfield and Sheffield. They can’t respond to a pager and get here in five minutes so we can get an engine out.

“A lot of people don’t think they can do it. They think you have to be young, but I’m 58 - you still have to pass all the fitness tests but I do, so others can still do it. A lot of women discount it and think it’s a male preserve, which isn’t the case - men and women are as capable as each other when it comes to being firefighters.”

Our reporter was shown how the crew respond to different emergency incidents.

Indeed, the number of female firefighters in Derbyshire is actually above the national average, with 8% of crew members in the county being women. Paul also said that the crew is diverse in terms of their age and their ‘day job’ - and that being an on-call firefighter is as satisfying a role as it is important.

“Our current crew range from 20 to 58-years-old and all come from different backgrounds, from transport managers and engineers to teachers and website designers.

“Whilst some jobs can be taxing, clearly most of our jobs have a good outcome - you’re saving properties, rescuing people and saving lives - there’s not many other jobs that can give you that sense of satisfaction.”

To give me a taste of what life is like as an on-call firefighter, Paul and his crew decided to lend me some gear and show me how they respond to house fires and road traffic collisions.

I couldn’t help but be impressed at how efficient the team was - from the moment we clambered into the fire engine, it was clear how well-drilled they were, with weekly training sessions keeping their skills sharp.

There were a few eye-opening moments, but none more so than when they brought out the ‘jaws of life’- the hydraulic cutters used to free people from the wreckages of vehicles.

As I used them, I could only imagine what it must be like to face the kinds of scenarios that these crews deal with routinely - it is not an easy job, no doubt, but it must be incredibly fulfilling to be able to help people when they are at their most vulnerable.

The dedication of the on-call team at Staveley was evident, even though being part of the crew is not their first job. I think that says something about what kind of role this is - it may be challenging, and it is probably not something for the faint-hearted, but it is clearly rewarding for those who take the plunge.

Of course, on-call firefighters don’t give up their time for free, and can earn more than you might think.

In return for a mutually agreed amount of cover each week, during which they can be called to attend emergencies, they receive a retaining fee of between £2000-£3000 per year.

They are then paid an hourly rate for all activities - which is currently £14.72 for fully-trained firefighters. While the amount earned by on-call firefighters varies across Derbyshire, a crew member at Staveley could bring in between £5,000 and £10,000 annually.

The team at Staveley is not alone in searching for new firefighters - stations across Derbyshire are hoping to bolster their on-call crews with new recruits.

Whether you are based in Staveley or beyond, if you think being an on-call firefighter is right for you, head to the DFRS recruitment page, where you can express your interest in the role.