Shortage of on-call firefighters in Norfolk sparks recruitment drive

Retained firefighters in training. Pic: Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service.

Retained firefighters in training. Pic: Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service. - Credit: Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service

A shortage of retained firefighters in Norfolk, with more than 50 vacancies across the county, has prompted a recruitment drive to ensure the county is properly protected.

Retained firefighters in training. Pic: Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service.

Retained firefighters in training. Pic: Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service. - Credit: Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service

Of Norfolk's 42 fire stations, 39 of them rely upon on-call firefighters, of which there are 468, to keep communities safe, but there are shortages in all but 11.

And if that means crews cannot go out, appliances from further afield have to attend incidents, increasing the time it takes to get to fires, crashes and other emergencies.

A national week-long campaign to recruit more retained firefighters was launched today, with fire chiefs in Norfolk hoping it will help plug the gaps in cover.

Margaret Dewsbury, chairman of Norfolk County Council's communities committee, said: 'Recruiting to these roles is vital in ensuring that our communities are as safe as possible.

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'Filling on-call vacancies makes the service's emergency response times quicker, as crews are readily available at our rural fire stations.

'If a full crew is not available, fire crews from further afield attend, increasing the time it takes to get to the incident.'

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On-call firefighters must live or work within five minutes of a retained fire station and many juggle their lifesaving work with other careers.

Retained firefighters are paid for being on call and carry an alerter which lets them know when an incident occurs and, on average, on-call firefighters earn £7,000 a year.

Firefighters are also paid per call out and for all courses as well as their weekly training session.

There is no upper age limit, although the minimum age is 18. There is a particular shortage of female firefighters and those from ethnic minority backgrounds.

Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service is holding a number of taster sessions for people to get a flavour of the work involved, the training needed and the fitness levels required.

Taster sessions will take place from 6pm until 9pm at these fire stations:

Gorleston - Thursday, February 21; Bowthorpe - Thursday, February 28; King's Lynn North - Monday, March 25; Bowthorpe and Wymondham - Tuesday, March 26.

People wanting to take part should fill in the form at to request a call back.

Where are the vacancies?

These are the stations which have vacancies. The number of vacancies is in brackets:

Acle (1), Attleborough (2), Aylsham (1), Cromer (0), Dereham (1), Diss (0), Downham Market (1), East Harling (2), Fakenham (2), Gorleston (0), Great Yarmouth (1), Harleston (0), Heacham (3), Hethersett (0), Hingham (2), Holt (2), Hunstanton (4), King's Lynn (1), Loddon (1), Long Stratton (0), Martham (0), Massingham (2), Methwold (1), Mundesdley (3), North Earlham (1), North Walsham (0), Outwell (3), Reepham (1), Sandringham (6), Sheringham (3), Stalham (2), Swaffham (0), Terrington (1), Thetford (0), Watton (1), Wells (1), West Walton (1), Wroxham (1), Wymondham (0),

Case Study: 'It's a great thing to be part of'

It's a great thing to be part of,' says retained firefighter Paul Worley. 'We're putting something back to the community where I live.'

At the age of 51, Mr Worley has been an on-call firefighter for Long Stratton station since 2015. He said: 'When I was a youngster I wanted to be a firefighter, but I'm vertically challenged at 5ft 3½ins and there were height restrictions in those days.'

Mr Worley set up his own business Stratton Flooring, now based at Tharston, 24 years ago.

But when the chance to become a retained firefighter came up, he grasped the opportunity.

He said: 'You learn a massive array of skills and there's a real sense of team in the fire service.

'It's amazingly varied, from being the ones who go into a burning house to helping getting people out of a

crash to putting a toaster fire out.

'I'd recommend it. I'd say do not be afraid what age you are, so long as you're fit and healthy.'

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