Diary details revealing the hectic double life of a Shropshire firefighter have led to a long awaited Â£800,000 investment in the county's rural fire brigade.
Clun firefighter Trevor Williams, who also runs a family egg production business, wrote down his busy schedule which began at 6.15am and ended writing fire reports late at night and submitted it to his fire chief as part of a detailed report about the life of a rural firefighter. The Fire Chief in turn presented it to the Shropshire & Wrekin Fire Authority.
It triggered off a nine month review into the "pressures and problems" of running Shropshire Fire & Rescue Service where 20 out of the 23 fire stations are crewed by retained firefighters who also have other careers and families to consider. Retained staff also work at two of the wholetime stations.
And it has led to a far reaching improvements in the service including the budget injection which will upgrade fire appliances and equipment at rural stations across Shropshire and lead to much needed time off for retained firefighters.
"This investment in our rural fire service is absolutely essential. It will lead to much safer communities and give our firefighters better pay and conditions as well as more time to spend with their families," said Chief Fire Officer Alan Taylor, who has this week related Shropshire's improvements to UK fire chiefs at a Birmingham conference.
"They really do provide a tremendous service to our communities which has gone unrecognised for far to long."
Firefighters and their families were questioned as part of the review in which their "unselfish" commitment to protect their communities was revealed, said Mr Taylor.
In one typical case outlined in the report a firefighter ran out of a Shropshire supermarket to answer an emergency call leaving his wife and children standing at the checkout with a trolley packed with shopping.
"Fortunately he managed to throw his wallet in time but he still had to leave them stranded as he had to take the car to get to the fire station.," said the fire chief.
In another incident, a firefighter had to leave his children in the care of a friendly newsagent while he dashed off to a call.
"These are the sort of examples which show the commitment of our firefighters. But because of this new budget we will now be able to make life a bit more family friendly by giving them regular time away from the job."
The cash boost will pay for a rolling programme over the next four years which will see every fire engine across the county upgraded to an XL Cab able to seat eight instead of the present six seater - a potential lifesaver during a rural emergency whether it be a house fire or a road crash. Cutting gear to release people trapped in a wrecked car will also be upgraded to cope with today's modern vehicles.
The first new cab which has just arrived at Albrighton Fire Station was welcomed by Fire Authority member Councillor Stuart West, of Shifnal, who said: "This will mean so much for the people of Albrighton. It will improve safety in their community. There will be more firefighters at an incident and an improved response to an accident on the M54 when Albrighton crews may be first on the scene. They now have enough crew and the best equipment to cope with any incidents.
"Retained firefighters are a most vital part of our fire service in Shropshire. They do a tremendous job and we could not do without them. They are very much appreciated. The new investment will raise morale among the service."
Sub Officer Brian Dawson said that the upgraded fire appliance and equipment would make a "big difference" to the fire and rescue service in Albrighton.
Extra investment has now led to the launch of a campaign to recruit more retained firefighters who earn between Â£5,000 and Â£9,000 a year for turning out to emergency calls and attending training sessions.
For more information about helping your rural community by becoming a retained firefighter contact Jan Sorrell on 01743 260 220 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.shropshirefire.gov.uk
Retained firefighters are particularly needed at stations at Albrighton, Cleobury Mortimer, Craven Arms and Much Wenlock.