The rewards of becoming a firefighter
Allan MacIntyre from Ardrishaig joined the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service retained unit in Lochgilphead around four years ago. The 34-year-old says being a firefighter is something he had always wanted to do, but due to work commitments he never applied.
‘I think I was a little apprehensive about applying as I had heard it was hard to get in to,’ Allan explained.
‘It was when I started working in Lochgilphead with the council in 2016 that I enquired about being a retained firefighter, as I felt I had the flexibility and wanted to give something back to the community I lived in. The council was supportive, and I went along to the station’s drill night and asked a few questions about the role. The guys at the station were really helpful and explained how the on-call system worked. I then applied and was successful after some practical selection tests and an interview.
‘I remember my first shout well. When the pager went off I was at home eating my lunch and I got such a fright I ran straight out the front door leaving my lunch behind. It was a smell of burning from an electrical unit at the hospital which didn’t turn out to be much but it was still exciting responding and dealing with the situation with the rest of the crew. When I got home that day my lunch was gone and there was a very guilty looking Labrador in the house, a mistake which I have since learned from.
‘Being a retained firefighter gave me the opportunity to learn loads of new skills. There are the obvious ones like first aid training, but my people skills are much better and I’m a much more confident person now. Being able to use my skills and help people within my community is very rewarding and definitely laid the foundations for wanting to become a wholetime firefighter.
‘When recruitment opened for whole-time firefighters, I applied thinking I may not even get in as it is such a popular career. Being retained helped with my application and I progressed, after successful selection tests and interviews, to be offered a fulltime position as a firefighter.
I then went to the national training centre for a 14-week foundation course. I was posted to Blue Watch Oban which I was delighted with as this is the closest whole-time station to me. Since then I have learned loads of new skills, I am a qualified swift water rescue technician, I have gained my LGV and trailer licence and I am also a qualified blue light driver.
‘I am now on a dual contract, which means I am still a part of the retained unit in Lochgilphead as well as whole time in Oban. I cover a 90hour contract in Lochgilphead which I cover on my days and nights off. My experience as retained firefighter has helped me where I am today and I was glad I was given the opportunity to serve the community.’
Allan continued: ‘My family and friends are all really supportive and are proud of my progression. My three-year-old boy loves it and every time the pager goes, he’s shouting: ‘Daddy, you need to go - quick daddy’. It can be hard sometimes not to wake the house when the pager goes in the middle of the night. You need to be well prepared with your clothes laid out every night ready to spring out of bed and out quickly. I first imagined it as being the end of my social life with having to cover so many hours but it isn’t like that at all. There is an online booking system which we organise on a Monday night together to make sure the week ahead is covered and time off is fair for everyone.
‘For anyone thinking about joining the retained I would urge them to contact the station or contact one of the crew members. They would be more than happy to show or discuss with you what’s all involved. You will have to give up some time, but in return you’ll get such a lot out of it and it’s great to be doing something so meaningful in your community and, who knows, you may even find yourself in a whole new career like I have.’
Being a retained firefighter gave me the opportunity to learn loads of new skills You’ll get such a lot out of it, and it’s great to be doing something so meaningful in your local community
For more information on joining the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, please contact your local fire station or email email@example.com
Allan with a banner featuring some well-known faces - left to right, Watch Commander Duncan Litster, Lochgilphead; Crew Commander Minard volunteers Gail Cook; and Firefighter Duncan MacBrayne, Lochgilphead. no_a39SFRS_AllanMacIntyre 01
Allan MacIntyre: ‘You’ll get such a lot out of being a firefighter.’