Retained firefighter springs into action

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Value of skills to regular employers becomes clear when fire strikes at Inverness workshop.

Ff flames day training LB

Having a retained firefighter on staff proved valuable for a vehicle workshop in Inverness when flames broke out within the Harbour Road premises on Wednesday (19 February).

Firefighter Kenneth Maclennan, who works full-time as a paint-sprayer while serving on the retained duty system at Inverness Fire Station, sprang into action as the incident unfolded.

Utilising his training, he helped ensure everyone in the property got safely out and, along with a colleague, used a portable extinguisher to tackle the flames.

Quickly realising the fire had spread to the ventilation system, Firefighter Maclennan shut off the gas supply to the premises before moving vehicles and other materials that risked increasing the size of the fire.

He then made his way to the station to respond to the incident alongside his Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) crew.

Group Manager Robert Scott said: “Firefighter Maclennan’s quick actions meant everyone got safely from the building and helped ensure the fire did not become a far more serious and damaging one.

“When he returned to the scene as part of the crews sent to the incident, his knowledge of the premises meant he could provide valuable advice to the incident commander, who could make decisions based on high quality, accurate information.

“Being aware of the potential hazards facing firefighters sent into the building and the presence of any items likely to impact firefighting operations allowed teams to effectively bring the flames under control and limit the damage to the building.”

The incident, which took place around 2:30pm, saw four SFRS appliances sent from Inverness along with a fifth from Dingwall.

A high ladder platform was among the resources mobilised to the scene and six firefighters donned breathing apparatus to tackle the flames using carbonated foam and two high-pressure water jets.

Firefighter Maclennan said: “I joined the retained 12 years ago and it has been a great experience. It can be a demanding role but you learn skills that can make a huge difference in an emergency.

“The training equips you to deal with fires, road traffic collisions or anything else you might be called to and that means you can play a positive role when something does happen.

“No-one ever wants to be caught up in an emergency but they can happen to anyone at any time, so knowing you have the skills and experience needed to make a difference gives you a lot of confidence.

“I’ve always enjoyed working with my crew – you rely on each other at training and at incidents so that tends to make people really good friends.

“It’s something that’s well-worth doing and thankfully I’ve always had the support of my employer. I’d encourage anyone who thinks they could do it to get in touch with the service and find out more about it.”

Retained firefighters come from all walks of life but share a commitment to responding to emergencies within the communities where they live and work.

The firefighters attend their station for a two or three hour training session every week, ensuring they maintain the firefighting, rescue and casualty care skills needed to protect the public.

In return for their commitment they receive a retainer fee along with additional payments for every incident and training night they attend.

Group Manager Scott continued: “Firefighters operating on the retained duty system provide an absolutely vital service to communities across the Highlands and throughout Scotland, and this incident proves the value of their specialist skills and knowledge to their regular employers. 

“Retained personnel are professional firefighters who develop and maintain the full range of skills needed by any of our crews who respond to emergencies.

“Their commitment to protecting the areas where they live and work provides absolutely vital fire and rescue cover for communities, and I would urge all employers to support any of their staff who are considering taking-up this essential role.”

“We actively encourage people to consider becoming a retained firefighter and we always want to hear from people who are interested in this incredibly rewarding job.”

If you would like more information on how to become a retained firefighters visit the myjobscotland website and search for Scottish Fire and Rescue Service.