Selsey firefighters are hoping to boost their numbers and welcome potential new recruits when they hold an informal drop-in event at the town’s fire station this weekend.
The station, which is crewed 24/7 by retained ‘on-call’ firefighters, will be opening its doors between 10:30am-3pm on Saturday (28th Jan). Selsey’s crew will be joined by colleagues from East Wittering and they hope local people will see it as a great opportunity to call in and find out more about the life of a firefighter, see the vehicles and equipment at the station, learn about their prevention role and all the other services now offered by firefighters to help their local community.
A shortage of retained firefighters often means that the fire engine can’t be crewed for emergencies in the town, with cover having to be provided from nearby stations like Chichester.
This was again highlighted on Saturday night (21st Jan) at a house fire in Beach Gardens, Selsey. The first 999 call was made at 11:27pm but due to a shortage of available firefighters, the Selsey team were not available to crew the fire engine until midnight. The first crew from Chichester arrived at 11:45pm and after initial firefighting and scene assessment requested two extra appliances at 11:55pm. The Selsey crew were then mobilised and arrived at 00:04am.
“The shortage of retained firefighters is a long running national issue for the Fire & Rescue Service, it’s not just West Sussex or specifically here in Selsey,” says Station Manager Stuart Beddoe, “but being on the peninsular does create specific local considerations, including significantly limiting our catchment area for potential recruits.
“Our crews here now do a fantastic job and give tremendous service to their local community with the hours they give ‘on-call’, but we desperately need more of them. Selsey’s firefighters, like most of our other retained staff, go ‘over and above’ to try and keep their appliances available, but with numbers spread so thinly it leaves gaps in the cover they can provide.
“We have been trying to recruit more firefighters for some time, talking to local people, employers, community networks, using social media and putting on recruitment events. This drop-in event at Selsey has been planned for several weeks, but incidents like Saturday spur us on even more and serve to underline the importance of attracting local recruits.
“We currently have 11 crew members at Selsey who give cover at different times of the day or week, but ideally we need to boost that by another 4-5 firefighters to help maintain a crew of 4 enabling us to mobilise the fire engine at all times.”
Selsey Watch Manager Paul Smith said he hopes that potential recruits can be found by tapping into the well-known community spirit in the town.
“Everybody saw after the Academy fire how Selsey rallies round and supports each other in times of need. Selsey firefighters were hugely grateful for the support we received then, and it’s not just fires; we’ve seen it during floods, bad weather, even tornados. The town is resilient, and being on the peninsula, is used to planning for how to deal with emergencies until more help can arrive.
“However, we can’t always be there to help if we don’t have a crew for the fire engine. That’s why I’d urge anyone interested in becoming a retained firefighter and serving their local community to get in touch or come along for a chat on Saturday.
“We’d love to see you. We need to see you.”
Please note: West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service is also holding a ‘Have-a-Go-Day’ at Storrington Fire Station this Sunday (29th Jan) where anyone interested in becoming a retained firefighter in West Sussex can find out more and try for themselves some of the tests and equipment involved.
Storrington Fire Station, School Hill, Storrington RH20 4NB