County employers keep the fire service going

County employers with Prees fire station manager Vincent Lines. Left to right: Paul Castell, William Furber, Roy Chambers, Carl Blank, Brian Ruscoe, Tim Sneddon and Karen Chambers|Firefighter Charlie Cheshire explains how a piece of fire equipment works to his employer Carl Black with son Alex (12)|Shropshire & Wrekin Fire Authority member Chris Mellings, Ian Sturton, North Shropshire District Council chairman Pauline Dee, firefighter Alan Smith, Prees district and parish councillor Barbara Bate and Tim Sneddon.|

Shropshire employers have been praised for their "valuable" contribution in releasing staff to carry out firefighting duties in the county.

Without them, Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service - which has 300 retained firefighters - would be in "dire straits."

"70 per cent of fire cover in Shropshire is provided by the retained service," Councillor Chris Mellings, a member of Shropshire and Wrekin Fire Authority told employers.

In some parts of the county there were "real" difficulties staffing some rural fire stations, particularly during the daytime. Without the help of employers in releasing staff there would be a problem in providing fire cover for the county, he said.

"Releasing staff for fire cover is a valuable contribution but it works two ways. Not only does the service and the community benefit but employers also win by having employees who are extremely well trained."

Employers in north Shropshire attended a special thank you celebration held at Prees Fire Station where they each received a framed certificate congratulating them for their efforts.

Carl Blank, owner and director of Christian Torsten which builds timber framed buildings, said: "It is part of our social fabric. If nobody did it, who would cut me out of a car if I had a crash?"

Employee Charlie Cheshire, a fork lift truck driver who is also a Wem firefighter, has to leave his job instantly when the bleeper calls him and his crew to an emergency.

"It is not that often. It may just be half a dozen times a year that he gets a call out during work hours. I know what it is like to be on the receiving end of a fire and every employer should do their bit to help," said Mr Blank, who experienced an industrial blaze at Wem a few years ago when one of his units burned down.

Employer Richard Evans, who runs Stellex with 45 employees at Prees Industrial Estate has known firefighter Peter Grocott who works as a machinist at his engineering company "since he was a boy."

"A shout is a shout. You can't say they can't go because it might be your house burning down," said Mr Evans who runs Shropshire's last heavy engineering company which makes tractors for reversing aeroplanes.

Mr Evans, who did have five retained firefighters working for him at one stage, said his company had a flexible arrangement where staff made up the work time.

He urged other employers to support the fire service by employing retained firefighters. "I would recommend it to any employer. You just need to be flexible."

Sub Officer Vincent Lines, who runs Prees Auto Services with two colleagues is the man in charge at Prees Fire Station.

"Firefighting is a service to the community. It is part of life," said the garage owner who has been a Prees firefighter for 27 years.

"Without the employers supporting our firefighters we would be in dire straits."

23rd October, 2006