Forestry pod move creates openings for new retained firefighters in Ballater

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Station Manager Colin Westwood is encouraging members of the public to sign up and "live a life less ordinary"

Forestry Pod

Scottish Fire and Rescue Service's Station Manager at Ballater, Aberdeenshire says the arrival of a new appliance has provided a platform for the service to encourage more retained firefighters to join the team.

SM Colin Westwood revealed this week that the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service’s Forestry Pod, which was formerly based at Inverurie, has now been moved to Ballater on a permanent basis.

The move was part of Local Senior Officer David Rout’s strategic review of resources in Aberdeenshire and Moray.

Re-deployment of the pod is based on analysis and historical data which shows the Ballater area has a greater risk of wildfire. It's repositioning means it is still ideally positioned to be deployed to other areas of Aberdeenshire when required.

SM Westwood says that the pod’s arrival gives him an opportunity to highlight new recruitment opportunities for seven new retained firefighters at the Ballater station.

He said: “Because we have a new appliance here now it gives us the perfect opportunity to increase the number of Retained Duty System (RDS) staff. We are keen to take another seven retained firefighters into the team here at Ballater.”

LSO for Aberdeenshire and Moray, David Rout, said: “The relocation of special appliances across the Aberdeenshire and Moray area is based on local needs to meet local risks.

“The deployment of the forestry unit from Inverurie to Ballater is designed to meet the risks of wildland fires in south Grampian area and compliment national work.

“In addition to this we have relocated the Welfare Unit from Inverurie to Huntly so as to allow for a more central point for mobilisation across all of Aberdeenshire and Moray.”

Scottish Fire and Rescue Service are encouraging more men and women to sign up and enjoy ‘a life less ordinary’ by becoming retained firefighters.

The RDS (Retained Duty System) consists of part time firefighters who provide a vital service to the communities in which they live and work.

One minute you could be sitting at your desk at work and the next you could be up a ladder saving someone from a burning building and it’s this variety, excitement and sense of public responsibility that the SFRS hopes will encourage more people to join the team. Furthermore the role contributes to promoting fire safety within local towns and communities.

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service is also appealing to people who can provide the service with fire cover during the day.

SFRS believes there may be men or women who are at home during the day whilst their children are at school and they could potentially provide fire cover during daytime hours.

To become a retained firefighter you should be eligible to work in the UK and be 18 years or over, preferably live within one mile and work within two miles, or work within five to eight minutes of your nearest station.

You available to respond to emergency calls via pager from your home or place of work at any time of the day or night, if you are on call that week. You will also have the permission from your employer to become an RDS firefighter. You’ll also be expected to attend a two and a half hour training session (drill night) once night a week.

You should be available to training courses designed to provide you with the basic training needed to start your role as an RDS firefighter. Your ongoing training and development will be provided at your local fire station. Successful candidates will be subject to a Disclosure Scotland criminal record check.

There is also a financial benefit when you join the retained service with an annual retainer starting at £2158, which is split into monthly payments, together with additional payments for every incident and training night you attend.

SM Westwood said: “We are extremely thankful to our retained crews who already do sterling work across the north and to their employers for their understanding and co-operation.

“Retained firefighters display a tremendous amount of commitment within their communities and it is important for the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service to support those already in the role by trying to attract more people to join.

“We have to consider the welfare of those at the station and bring more people in to bolster the team and allow a greater flexibility for staff in terms of work/life balance.”

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service is also keen to stress that the benefits of the RDS extends to employers.

Colin Westwood added: “There is no financial cost to employers and your employee will receive training from the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service worth a significant amount of money in directly transferrable skills.

“Having a retained firefighter working for you will also have tangible benefits for your company, as well as the local community. For example they may have first aid or health and safety skills which will be invaluable.”

He added: “Although there is a commitment by employers it should be manageable.

“The system is very flexible and if there are important commitments at work then these will clearly take precedence over staff’s retained roles.”

One of the most rewarding elements of the RDS role is combining an exciting and rewarding community contribution with the everyday challenges of a day job.

Colin said: “As an RDS firefighter you will not only be making a positive contribution to the safety of your community, but also learning invaluable life and team working skills, which should increase understanding and be welcomed by your employer.

“The time away from your job will be minimal compared to the significant overall benefits your company or business will enjoy. You may be called away to an emergency at very short notice, but the additional skills you will bring to the workplace will more than make up for that.”

“So if you would like to enjoy a real sense of social responsibility, help protect the community in which you live and fancy a ‘life less ordinary’ then get in touch and see how becoming an RDS firefighter could change your life and give you a sense of tremendous satisfaction.”

If you would like to find out more about becoming a ‘local hero’ visit the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service website or to complete an application form to join the RDS in the north visit