Pay hope for retained fire crews

SUFFOLK has renewed its commitment to part-time firefighters who make-up 80% of the county's emergency and rescue services and has accepted that they may have to be paid.

Graham Dines

SUFFOLK has renewed its commitment to part-time firefighters who make-up 80% of the county's emergency and rescue services and has accepted that they may have to be paid.

In return for the volunteers taking part in fire prevention activities in their local communities, the county council is to look at the possibility of paying them a salary as a reward for giving up their free time and being ready to react to call-outs within five minutes.

The importance of retained firefighters has been underlined by figures which show that of the 35 fire stations in the county, 28 are wholly crewed by retained volunteers while the other seven are partly staffed by part-timers.

The county council's executive yesterday paid tribute to the work of the volunteers as councillors approved a package of measures to strengthen the retained duty system.

“They are fundamental to the delivery of fire and rescue services across Suffolk and are deeply committed to serving their communities,” said Joanna Spicer, the portfolio holder for public protection.

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“We recognise the work they do and sacrifices they make in juggling commitments and home life around their role as fire-fighters.

“We will ensure we do everything possible to secure the resilience of the service and provide a safer county for people who live, work and visit Suffolk.”

The executive accepted a report from a specially convened policy development panel, which looked into the work of retained staff and warned that recruitment and retention of staff would become more difficult because of demographic changes and in their full-time employment.

In addition to the introduction of national firefighter selection tests which will make it harder for people to join the service, Suffolk is also in the front line in global warming, which is likely to have a major impact on the levels of response and number of call-outs which retained staff would have to make.