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Emergency services / Fire service still keen to attract more women to join crews

The Lerwick Community Fire & Ambulance Station. Photo: Shetland News

THE LOCAL fire service is not having much luck at the moment in recruiting female retained fire fighters – but it remains something on its agenda, councillors were told at a meeting on Thursday.

Scottish Fire and Rescue Service’s Raymond Fallon also told Shetland’s community safety and resilience board that the service is looking at offering “50 per cent” contracts for retained fire fighters – which would have less on-call time – in a bid to encourage more people to join.

In 2019 the Shetland service, led by Lerwick fire fighter Amy Gerrard, held a “women-only” recruitment event to try to support more females to sign up.

Thirteen people turned up and it resulted in some folk applying, but the Covid pandemic has put paid to any follow-up events. However, there is still a hope to hold more.

The issue of attracting more women into what is often seen as a male-dominated role was raised by board chairman Alastair Cooper, who asked if there has been any success.

“It’s does not seem to be happening in Shetland at the moment,” Fallon admitted.

He added that the fire service here is considering offering contracts with reduced on-call time, explaining that a “100 per cent” agreement equates to 120 hours a week.

Fallon said this “really is not family friendly” and by splitting contracts there might be more chance of getting people on board.

“I would rather two people were giving the full complement than none at all,” he said.

The latest figures show that just three out of Shetland’s 14 fire stations have a full complement of staff, although many are not far off.

Islands are traditionally harder to recruit to, but Fair Isle for instance currently has eight on the books out of a full complement of 12.

Meanwhile Fallon also said the fire service is looking into upgrading some of its facilities in Shetland in a bid to, in some cases, make them more “dignified”.

He referred for example to the fire station in Fetlar which does not have any toilets.

More information on applying to become a retained firefighter can be found here.