Benbecula firefighters will soon have a new colleague – though he may take a few years to become fully trained.
Eight-month-old Fergus is the new son of firefighter Danielle Macgillivray, who is due to return to her post as watch commander at Benbecula Community Fire Station in October, after her maternity leave ends.
Danielle already has a nine-year-old son, Peter, who is showing interest in the work of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS).
Danielle said: “He’s interested in what I do and can see what happens when the pager goes off. He always wants to know what has happened when I get back.”
Family support is essential for a firefighter, who can be called at any time to attend an incident, and Danielle is grateful to get that interest from her son and from her partner, plumbing and renewable heating engineer Fergie Walker.
But she’s equally as grateful to have the support of SFRS in managing the demands of family life around her dual contract as a retained (on-call) fire-fighter and as a staff member at Benbecula.
When she returns to work, Danielle will have daytime responsibilities doing educational work in schools and communities and supporting other stations, all tasks which she is able to deliver well because of a good, supportive leadership structure delivered by station commander Stephen Thompson and area commander Dougie Campbell.
Danielle will be returning to her roles at a good time, as Benbecula and Uist gear up for the recruitment of retained duty system (RDS) firefighters to join Scottish Fire and Rescue Service at stations in Barra, Lochboisdale, Benbecula, Lochmaddy and Bayhead in North Uist.
An open event at Benbecula Community Fire Station on 15, 16 and 18 September will see officers and firefighters on hand to explain what the role entails and to answer questions.
Western Isles acting Group Commander Dougie Campbell said that, after a year that has seen firefighters helping their communities with everything from assisting with prescription deliveries and staffing Covid-19 vaccination centres to frozen water supplies and burning hillsides, a new intake of firefighters is needed to start their training.
Commander Campbell said: "We are looking to recruit firefighters to improve our local resilience. We want to find people interested in helping their community to become a safer place to live and work.
"Being an RDS firefighter isn't just about firefighting duties and training , they enjoy great camaraderie, get a wider social circle and become part of a highly-trained team that's really doing something important for their own locality."
That’s something backed up by Danielle, who can’t wait to get to work again. She said: “I’m really looking forward to getting back. I have missed the adrenaline from the calls, the training and the feeling of being part of a team.
“It sounds corny, but we really are a team. We train hard together, both here and on training courses away from base, so as well as the work being physically demanding it is mentally stimulating, because you are constantly learning.
“I love the fact that we are doing something for the community and you get a massive sense of satisfaction from knowing that you have helped somebody. I get a real boost from doing things for other people, and this is an ideal role if you are that kind of person.”
Firefighters come from a wide range of backgrounds, although all must be aged 18 years or over, have a good level of physical fitness and have the required standard of vision and colour perception.
They're required to be readily available to attend incidents and should therefore live or work no more than eight minutes travel time from the fire station applied for.
RDS firefighters can be called upon to attend a wide range of emergency incidents, including fires, floods, road traffic accidents and chemical spills.
In return they are paid an annual retainer fee, with additional payments for every incident attended and time spent on any activity connected with their work, including training nights and community safety initiatives.
It's hoped that a new training course can start later this year for trainees for the community fire stations in Barra and Uist.
To find out more about the Benbecula open event or the potential for recruitment in your area, contact group commander Dougie Campbell on 07825 837891.
The picture shows Benbecula watch commander Danielle with baby Fergus, ready to return to work next month.