Feature: Could you be a retained firefighter in Hertfordshire?

Blue Watch retained fire crew who are based at Baldock Fire Station: Michael Sheekey, Joe Ross, Cliv

Blue Watch retained fire crew who are based at Baldock Fire Station: Michael Sheekey, Joe Ross, Clive Robinson, Andy Hall, Tim Deegan and Andy Mansfield. - Credit: Archant

There aren’t many people who would rather be on the inside of a burning building than the outside – but firefighter Andy Mansfield is one of them.

“I would always rather be inside a burning building than outside one,” he said.

“There’s always another member of the crew, you are never on your own inside.”

The buzz of an emergency shout, working as part of a team and the chance to help others are among the reasons why Andy has been a full-time firefighter for more than 25 years.

And it’s also why he’s been ready to drop everything at a moment’s notice, even when he’s not on duty, for almost as long.


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Andy has been a retained firefighter – one of the band which offers additional cover when needed at stations across the county – for 22 years.

But there aren’t many like Andy around, and the call has gone out for new recruits.

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Retained firefighters get paid for their efforts, but they must live no more than four minutes away from their local station and have to be available for up to 90 hours a week.

A seven-strong retained crew from Baldock were being put through their paces at the county’s fire training centre in Stevenage on the night the Comet dropped in to see what the work involves.

Training drills included getting ladders on and off the fire engine, setting them up and climbing training towers.

At the Stevenage site crews from all over the county practice going into smoke-filled rooms, cutting people out of cars on a stretch of pretend motorway and getting in and out of burning buildings.

They even have part of a pretend plane to work on, so that they can familiarise themselves with worst case scenario.

In charge of the team is Blue Watch crew commander Clive Robinson.

He said: “It is something that community-minded people could well be interested in.

“They become part of a close team and get to respond to a variety of operational incidents. In addition to this they get paid for their services.”

Micheal Sheekey is a postman from Baldock who is also a retained firefighter.

The 44-year-old said: “I always wanted to be a fireman and there was a big banner on the station and I thought I would come and see what it was all about.”

That was more than fiye years ago, and this month he will be making the step up to the ranks of the county’s full-time firefighters.

He said: “I have always been a helpful sort of lad and it’s a great thing to do.

“It is good camaraderie, everyone gets on. There are a lot of hard times, but we try to have a bit of a laugh in between.”

Anyone interested in becoming a retained firefighters should first complete an Expression of Interest form online at www.hertsdirect.org.

All applicants must be over 18 and able to respond safely within four minutes to the retained fire station to which they are applying to join. They also have to have a full driving licence.

Once trained, retained fighters can earn around £450 per month before deductions.

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