Western Isles employers are first recipients of national award for supporting firefighters

Four employers in the Western Isles with on call firefighters among their workforce have been recognised for helping efforts to keep local communities safe.

The employers, who are based in Stornoway, Lewis and Benbecula were the first recipients of a national award scheme launched by the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS).

At award ceremonies held in Lochmaddy and Stornoway, they were presented with an Employers Recognition Certificate (Gold Award) for supporting their local fire stations for more than 10 years.

Employers show their support for the SFRS by releasing their employees - who are also trained on call firefighters who carry a pager - to attend to emergencies and to help their local communities at a time of need.

The employers who received the awards were:

  • Kevin Macrae Electrical from Port of Ness, Lewis
  • Woody’s Express Parcels, Stornoway
  • QinetiQ MOD Hebrides
  • Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (Western Isles Council)

The four employers support a total of 14 firefighters who are based in community fire stations in Stornoway, Benbecula, Tarbert, Port of Ness and South Lochs.

As the employers accepted their awards, they stood alongside firefighters who were also being recognised for their long service to SFRS.

The two award ceremonies saw a total of 25 firefighters who were recognised for a combined 650 years of service.

Area Commander Scott Gibson is SFRS Local Senior Officer for the Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland. He said: “We are delighted to be able to recognise the efforts of these local businesses in supporting the role of our on call firefighters in the Western Isles.

“Our staff who are dedicated to keeping their communities safe combine their firefighting role with their primary employment. Their ability to take on both roles is thanks to this ongoing partnership with our organisation.

“This award represents our gratitude for their years of service and support to allow us to work to keep people safe.”

Watch Commander Ian MacAulay is based at Stornoway Fire Station. He’s been an on call firefighter for nearly 20 years. He balances his firefighting role with his primary employment with Western Isles Council, where he works as a building inspector. Ian was inspired to become an on call firefighter by a family member, who was also a firefighter.

Ian said: “If it wasn’t for the good will of my employer or any employer, we wouldn’t have an on call service on the island. It’s vital we keep our appliances on the run and available to attend to emergencies. It’s also a huge commitment from everyone – including your own family as your pager can go off at any time.

“The training is great, you learn different skills, meet a lot of people and help your community. We have all kinds of skilled people from all areas of work and we have had six new recruits in the last eight months. Anyone is welcome to come and see what we do.”

Stornoway Fire Station houses two fire appliances and the station can get around 300 call outs a year. The area covered is extensive and can stretch from the north end of Lewis to the south end of Harris – roughly around 80 miles. The station also supports other outlying stations with any major incidents.

Chief Executive of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar Malcolm Burr said: “The Comhairle has always been a strong supporter of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and remains committed to helping our valued on call firefighters to undertake their essential work keeping their communities safe. We are delighted to be amongst the first recipients of this new award. Congratulations to all those receiving long service awards for their long-standing commitment to Western Isles communities.”

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service is planning to roll out the Employer Recognition Certificate nationally following the event in the Western Isles.


Editor’s Note:

On Call Firefighters - About the Role

  • The role of the firefighter involves far more than fighting fires and can include partnership, prevention, and education.
  • Our on call firefighters often balance responding to emergencies via a pager with primary employment as well as family life.
  • Becoming an on call firefighter can help you give back to your community while earning a second income.
  • You will learn transferable skills.
  • On call firefighters bring with them a wide range of experience from other roles which can include sheep farmers, joiners, hoteliers, administrators.

For more information on becoming an On Call Firefighter

Information for Employers:

Employers can read more about how to support their employees and how they can help to play a part in keeping their local community safe.

On Call Firefighter - Guide for Employers