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Four employers in the Western Isles have become the first in Scotland to be recognised for helping on-call firefighters to keep their local communities safe.

The employers – in Lewis and Benbecula – were this week the first recipients of a national award scheme launched by the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) thanking employers who release employees to be active as trained on-call firefighters, carrying a pager and responding to emergency call-outs when needed.

Award ceremonies were held in Lochmaddy and Stornoway this week, with the employers receiving a gold award recognition certificate, marking their support for local fire stations for more than 10 years.

The employers recognised were Kevin Macrae Electrical from Port of Ness, Woody’s Express Parcels of Stornoway, QinetiQ MoD Hebrides and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar.

Between them they support a total of 14 firefighters, based in fire stations in Stornoway, Benbecula, Tarbert, Port of Ness and South Lochs.

As the employers accepted their awards, they stood alongside firefighters who were also being recognised for their long service to SFRS.

Three award ceremonies, including one in Barra, saw a total of 27 firefighters recognised for a combined 650 years of service.

Long service and good conduct medals were presented to 12 individuals who had committed to firefighting service for 20 years, while 13 firefighters received their 30-year certificates and clasps.

Stuart Stevens, interim deputy chief officer (DCO) for SFRS, praised the dedication, tenacity and courage which characterises the modern-day firefighter, acknowledging their professionalism and commitment and describing his attendance at the presentations as ‘an absolute privilege.’

He said: “Every single recipient earned this recognition, not only for long and loyal commitment to the service and their communities, but for outstanding and exemplary conduct over many years.

“SFRS employees are respected by the communities they serve and have the amazing ability to reach out to all and make a difference in people’s lives. These individuals have devoted themselves to keeping people and their local communities safe. That is a major achievement.” 

Dougie Campbell, group commander for SFRS in the Western Isles, who was himself receiving a 20-year long service award said “Whilst the geography and population varies throughout the Western Isles, one aspect remains the same – the professionalism and commitment of SFRS personnel. This commitment ensures the safety and wellbeing of our communities.”

The role of employers in ensuring that fire services remain robust was praised by area commander Scott Gibson, the local senior officer for the Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland.

He said: “We are delighted to be able to recognise the efforts of local businesses in supporting the role of our on-call firefighters in the Western Isles.

“Our staff, who are dedicated to keeping their communities safe, combine their firefighting role with their primary employment. Their ability to take on both roles is thanks to this partnership. This award represents our gratitude for (employers’) years of service and support to allow us to work to keep people safe.”

Receiving long service and good conduct medals after 20 years’ service were group commander Dougie Campbell, watch Commander Alan Saunders, crew commanders Lachie MacIsaac (Bayhead, North Uist), Hugh MacCormick (Benbecula), Angus MacLeod (Leverburgh), Murdo MacSween (Scalpay) and John MacDonald (Barra), and firefighters Donald MacLennan (South Lochs), Rachel MacLeod (Scalpay), Kevin MacRae (Stornoway), Ronald MacNeil (Barra) and Roderick Steele (Bayhead, North Uist).

30-year certificates and clasps were presented to watch commanders Christine MacLeod of Lochmaddy, James MacEachan of Lochboisdale, John Morrison of Ness, Calum Richings (Great Bernera) and Donald MacRae, Leverburgh, to crew commander Donald MacDonald of Great Bernera and to firefighters Donald Graham (Benbecula), John Walker (Lochboisdale), Callum MacAulay and John Latimir of Great Bernera, William MacRae and Ivor MacKinnon of Leverburgh and George MacArthur of Shawbost.

Watch commander Ian MacAulay, who balances his firefighting role with his primary employment as a building inspector with CnES, said: “If it wasn’t for the goodwill of my employer, we wouldn’t have an on-call service on the island. It’s vital we keep our appliances on the run and available to attend to emergencies.

“It’s a huge commitment from everyone – including your own family as your pager can go off at any time. But the training is great, you learn different skills, meet a lot of people and help your community.

“We have all kinds of skilled people from all areas of work and we have had six new recruits in the last eight months. Anyone is welcome to come and see what we do.”

Firefighters are currently being recruited for training in locations around the Western Isles. For more information go to

Pictured receiving their long service awards are long-serving on-call firefighters and officers with Stuart Stevens, interim deputy chief officer for SFRS, deputy assistant chief officer Stephen Wood, deputy assistant chief officer Iain Macleod and area commander Scott Gibson. Also present for the ceremonies were Lord Lieutenant of the Western Isles Iain Macaulay and, in Lochmaddy, Deputy Lieutenant Alasdair MacEachan. 

Sandie Photos in Stornoway and Clickybox Photography in Benbecula 

Employers pictured receiving their awards from Stuart Stevens are QinetiQ site manager Alan MacSween and Kevin Macrae of Kevin Macrae Electrical