What connects an ice hockey referee, a karate expert and a former motocross racer? Answer, they are all among the latest group of on-call firefighter recruits to “pass out” after successfully completing the first part of their training.
The 19 recruits, 15 men and 4 women attended Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service’s annual Celebration of Success event at Theatre Severn, Shrewsbury, on Monday (22 Oct).
They will now join more than 300 on-call firefighters at 22 fire stations across the county who respond to 999 calls at a moment’s notice.
Chief Fire Officer, Rod Hammerton, told the audience of firefighters, their families and civic dignitaries: “Our on-call firefighters live and work in the communities they serve and the people they help to protect are their friends, families and neighbours.
“It is firefighters like these who will respond to calls for help, sometimes in the dead of night, from people in peril. When others run from danger they run towards it and that is the true spirit of what it means to be a firefighter.
“They constantly practice their skills to be part of a team they can trust and who trusts them. People who become firefighters believe in honour and duty and true public service.
“Shropshire Fire & Rescue Service is more like a family, a family that these new firefighters are part of. It’s a family that exists solely to help people and keep them safe,” he added.
Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service on-call firefighter recruits are drawn from all walks of life and the latest group is no exception.
Alice Stanley’s “day job” is as a leisure centre duty manager and she is also an on-call firefighter based at Bridgnorth fire station. When she is not working at either of those roles Alice is a referee in the men’s’ professional ice hockey league.
“I always wanted to be a firefighter when I was a little girl but never quite got round to it until a friend who is a firefighter at Bridgnorth encouraged me to put an application in. The training has been tough but enjoyable and the feeling of camaraderie is fantastic,” Alice said.
Chef, publican and mother of two, Hannah Limond, is an on-call firefighter at Clun and has somehow found enough time to gain a brown belt in karate. Hannah is just one step away from gaining a coveted black belt.
“Becoming a firefighter has been in my mind for years but other commitments, including having children has ruled it out until recently. Life is nothing without a challenge and becoming a firefighter feels like a challenge to me,” said Hannah.
Hannah is planning to clinch her karate black belt in the next 18 months.
Meanwhile in Market Drayton, on-call firefighter and married father of two, Chris Ritchings, is a former motocross racer and a former flying winger with Market Drayton rugby club.
Chris can trace the moment he decided to become a firefighter to a car crash he witnessed as a young man. “I decided there and then that I wanted to do something to help people in terrible situations like that. I eventually spoke to a couple of firefighters I knew and I that was that,” Chris said.
Each of the recruits were presented with “passing out” certificates by the chair of Shropshire and Wrekin Fire Authority, Councillor Eric Carter, who said: “Our firefighters are often in the frontline at dangerous and tragic events. They are special people and we should all be very proud of them.”
Another 26 employees also received Achiever Awards from Assistant Chief Fire Officer, Dave Myers, for their outstanding contributions to the community or for work achievements.
Among these was Shaun Baker, Group Manager Operational Training Delivery, a fan of the great outdoors and a keen climber.
In February this year Shaun was part of a group of family and friends climbing Snowden, the highest mountain in Wales, when they came across a poorly equipped climber in difficulties.
Shaun and his colleagues secured the climber with ropes before getting to safety and onto the main path where the climber was able to recover sufficiently to make his own way off the mountain.
“He was in a bad way when we found him spread-eagled on the edge of a cliff. He would almost certainly have fallen off the cliff if we hadn’t come along,” Shaun said.
Also among the Achiever’s Award winners was Clun firefighter, Kat Frost, who ran in the London Marathon in aid of the Fire Fighters Charity in April this year and raised £4,000 in the process.
Kat spent months training and preparing for her first run in the 26-mile race. The former nursery nurse is one of Clun Fire Station’s 13 “on call” firefighters.