A LERWICK fire fighter who is retiring after 42 years in the service has spoken about the commitment towards the community needed in the role.
Malcolm Younger says he has been on call as a retained fire fighter for 120 hours per week since the age of 19.
In total, he guesses, he has clocked up around 5,000 call-outs, including to some of the most horrific local emergencies over the last four decades.
The 61-year-old photographer and publisher of the ii Shetland magazine said that even with the pager going off in the middle of the night he had never thought of turning over and going back to sleep.
“I can honestly say that, in 42 years. As soon as the bleeper goes, I am up and out the door,” he recalls.
“When we are being called out to alarms, we don’t know what to expect; we will only find out when we get there. We treat each call-out with the same urgency.”
He said there have been far too many incidents to recall, from fire on Klondykers [East-European factory ships] in the last 1980s to tragic house fires and far too many road traffic accidents.
“There have been many, many incidents over the years, some very sad ones, horrific ones and others that put a smile on your face, such as rescuing a cat off a tree,” Malcolm says.
“The number of fires has gone down over the years, testament to the fire safety of the service, focus is very much on preventing fires rather fighting it.”
Going back to the early 1980s when he joined the station, which at that time was still located at Grantfield, he said it was a friend who was in the fire service at the time who encouraged him to sign up.
Ever since the fire service has been a big and rewarding part of his life; it has shaped him and taught him some essential life skills.
He praises the fire service as a “generally good and positive thing to be in”, and highlights the friendship, the camaraderie, and the feeling of pride he has experienced in those 42 years.
“It has given me life skills that I probably wouldn’t have experienced otherwise; I learned how to deal with things in an emergency and stay calm.
“These are all transferable skills. They give you a different outlook on life, gives you a sense of responsibility.”
Joining the service four decades ago was easy and straightforward; today any new entrant to the service will have to go through a rigorous recruitment process.
“There is excellent training in place these days, you get a lot of help and advice from those higher up,” Malcolm says.
He left the service earlier this month, on 9 April, a poignant date in his personal life as this is when his son Callum died of an undetected heart condition 17 years ago.
“Callum loved me being in the fire service,” he said, and added: “Sixty one is the right time to leave – physically it can be more challenging on the old body, and I am certainly not as fit as I used to be, and that made the decision process to retire a lot easier.”
The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service is always looking for more people to join as a retained fire fighter. There are several stations in Shetland that have vacancies, and more information on the recruitment process can be found here.
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