Minister praises retained firefighters

Government Minister Angela Smith is in the driving seat when she meets retained Shropshire firefighters Mick Howe, Trevor Williams and Bev Wilkins during her visit to Shropshire|Government Minister Angela Smith with members of Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service at Newport Fire Station|Government Minister Angela Smith pictured with Chief Fire Officer Alan Taylor and retained Station Officer Mick Howe|
17th November, 2006

The public needs to know that retained firefighters "save lives," said a Government Minister during a visit to Shropshire in which she heard how a review of the service had led to major improvements in the service.

Angela Smith MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary responsible for fire safety, praised Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service for boosting the retained service in the county following the review.

She said she was "very impressed" with the work done to recruit staff and send the message out to employers about the benefits of employing a professionally trained retained firefighter.

"Being on call causes difficulties but there is a lot of help from employers. We must make it as easy as possible for them. Retained firefighters save lives and we need them. We need the quality of people I have met here," said Mrs Smith.

She was introduced to Trevor Williams, Sub Officer at Clun, who said that having extra officers in their area as a result of the review had "taken the pressure off" and led to more weekend time with families and had boosted fire prevention and training exercies, which was a great improvement.

Station Officer Phil Clarke told the Minister as she visited Newport fire station how applications for careers in the retained service had significantly increased since the review had been carried out.

There was now reduced pressure on staff in rural fire stations due to the recruitment of more personnel. Home fire safety visits had increased, problems of insufficient staff to cover call outs were being resolved, and fire prevention campaigns were now being rolled out across the county.

The number of free smoke alarms being fitted had now quadrupled, he added.

Up to 70 per cent of fire cover in the largely rural county is provided by retained firefighters who staff 23 of Shropshire's 28 fire engines.

The service received £824,000 earlier this year to upgrade fire appliances and equipment and increase staff as a result of the review.