Volunteer firefighter urges others to step up and protect their communities
04 June 2020
By Jamie Milligan
A volunteer firefighter who has served his rural Perthshire village for more than two decades has urged others to follow in his footsteps as the country marks Volunteers’ Week.
Scottish Fire and Rescue Service Crew Commander Garry West has responded to emergencies within the community of Kirkmichael for the past 21 years.
Garry was inspired to help protect his friends and family and is acutely aware of the benefits of having a local fire service available in times of emergency.
He said: “For me, it’s always been a community thing.
“I really enjoy it and have met a lot of good friends through joining the fire service.
“Kirkmichael is a small place. The community is very grateful for the presence of a fire service in the community – they realise the implications of not having one.
“There have been occasions where we’ve saved properties from fire because we’ve been there to respond when the pager has gone.”
Firefighters not only respond to incidents but carry out a range of prevention work to support people to stay safe.
Garry’s watch includes people who have primary roles as mechanics, gardeners and joiners.
He believes that varied skillset proves anyone with the right will and attitude can succeed as a volunteer firefighter.
And while he admits the commitment involved is sizable,
Garry is delighted to be there to protect his hometown.
The Crew Commander also holds a secondary role with the SFRS as a rural full time officer, helping to oversee the running of a cluster of retained stations.
He revealed: “There are people in the watch from all walks of life, who brings various different skillsets with them.
“People who may consider joining do need to be aware it is big commitment – especially in the first year with training for the role.
“But the good thing is that you’re part of a big service and can develop various skills while being there for your community - I’m thankful to be part of it.”
When not working or protecting communities, Garry has helped spearhead a national initiative for fire stations across Scotland to be kitted out with specialist oxygen therapy masks for pets.
His efforts have enabled a link-up between the SFRS and not-for-profit group Smokey Paws.
The partnership’s results have been breath-taking and have led to more than 270 stations across Scotland being positioned to help save the lives of animals in need of emergency care.
Garry said: “My wife and I do a lot of work for animal charities - as dog lovers, it’s a natural thing for us.
“The success we’ve had with Smokey paws has been phenomenal.
“The response from firefighters, businesses and the general public has been amazing, really uplifting.
“My role with helping Smokey Paws is one I’m extremely proud of. The success has been amazing.”