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Aug. 6, 2018

#009 Saving lives and property- Life as a Retained Fireman

#009 Saving lives and property-  Life as a Retained Fireman

Welcome to the Inside Yorkshire Podcast, a podcast full of stories and tales from the people of Yorkshire. On today’s episode, we talk to Phil Alderson, the Watch Manager at Reeth Fire Station. Phil explains the ins and outs of a retained fire service and how it differs from those in bigger cities.

Phil talks about the many different challenges involved in being on-call 24/7 to not only fight fires but also respond to accidents, and perform rescues with a limited crew of men. At the end of the day though, the only part of the job Phil wishes he didn’t have to deal with is the paperwork!

Key Takeaways:

  • Reeth Fire Station is different from those in most cities and towns: Instead of having a full-time team, it has a service of retained firefighters.

○      These men are on-call 24/7, 365 days a year, and are required to live within four minutes of the fire station so that they can respond quickly to emergencies.

○      Unlike full-time firemen, who work in regular shifts, retained firemen like Phil have no idea when they might get the call, and they often have to suddenly leave their regular day jobs. (Recent guest Stu Price is also a retained fireman).

  • Phil has worked at the fire station for 17 years and is now the Watch Manager:He jokes that he didn’t have a choice in the matter and that the men in his family have always been part of the fire service.

○      In order to join, you must pass a fitness test and an aptitude test, followed by two weeks of training.

○      After that, it’s “learning on the job,” along with weekend or week-long courses on skills like using a breathing apparatus that have to be done within your first year of service.

○      According to Phil, it takes about two years to get fully competent as a fireman. He says that training is hard, but that he’d prefer it to paperwork any day.

  • Working in a large rural area can present unique challenges: Phil and the other firemen don’t just fight fires, they also respond to road traffic accidents, animal rescue, flood rescue, and more.

○      It can be difficult finding access to a decent-sized water supply in some areas.

○      Other times, a fire will be far off road and they have to abandon the fire engine and walk miles to get to it and try to beat it out.

○      One of the hardest parts of working as an emergency responder in a small community is how often the emergency might be happening to someone you know.

  • Rural fire stations like Reeth are struggling to find new recruits.In these more sparsely populated areas, more people are retiring than there are young families moving in who can join up and take their place in the fire service. Phil asks that anyone who is interested to reach out and apply.

Best Moments:

  • “It’s hard work and you’re out of your comfort zone, but I mean, who doesn’t want to run into a burning house with a breathing apparatus on? You’ve got to take it with a pinch of salt and try to enjoy it as well.”
  • “If there’s an RTC [Road Traffic Collision] then, generally, it could be someone that you know, and that is the last thing that you ever want to happen to you, but we like to think that it’s a job and you get on with it and you deal with it afterwards.”
  • “You can’t be risk-averse, not in this job.”
  • “We all have our own jobs to do but we all help each other out as much as we can.”

Valuable Resources:

North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service



About the Host:

Susan has been living in Yorkshire for over 30 years, and has had some fire training of her own! She is passionate about the county she has adopted as her home and she never ceases to be amazed at the wealth of talent ‘Inside Yorkshire’ and the tales that people have to tell.

About the Guest:

Phil Alderson is the Watch Manager at the Reeth Fire Station, where he’s worked as a retained fireman for nearly 20 years. Phil jokes that he was “press-ganged” into the job as working in the station has long been a tradition in his family.

When not fighting fires, responding to traffic accidents or rescuing all the manner of animals, Phil can be found working at Reeth Garage, always at the ready in case of an emergency.

Contact Method:

Susan Baty-Symes

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