In the second of our series looking at Tandridge’s fire stations, this month we visit Lingfield. Unlike Godstone, the only 24/7 station in the district, Lingfield’s operational hours are nights and weekends, but the role is the same.
The firefighters’ skill sets, training and development programmes are equal to their wholetime counterparts, as is the pay, albeit the latter is on a pro-rata basis and has an additional turn-out fee per shout. The main difference is that the Lingfield firefighters are not based at the station but are on-call from home, available to respond over an average of 54 hours a week, with 24 of those at the weekend. While this may seem a big committment, especially as they balance this with regular jobs, it is also a flexible one, as their availability can be submitted several weeks in advance to suit.
Lingfield’s crew must live close by: their target is for the appliance to be ready to leave the forecourt no more than five minutes after their alerters have gone off. This may prove tricky in October as the station is being given a £6.25m makeover, and they will be moving out for a year. At the time of printing, they are waiting to hear where they will be based while the refurbishment is done.
Their work is varied: while there has been a marked reduction in more serious call-outs as fire safety advice becomes widespread and vehicle safety improves, others, such as fires involving electric scooters, have increased. They complete regular drills and checks and undergo development training at Lingfield but are often drafted in on standby at other stations. They also go out on Surrey Fire and Rescue Service’s Safe and Well visits, drop in at schools and fairs and hold open days.
Finding camaraderie and purpose
David Stevens is Lingfield’s watch commander, and was a wholetime firefighter before retiring and rejoining in an on-call capacity:
“I’ve always wanted to help people, and that’s why I initially joined. I was a squaddie before that and loved the teamwork and camaraderie: I found that again here.”
Many of the crew have followed in the footsteps of friends or relatives.
Mark Turner’s uncle was an on-call firefighter at Lingfield:
“He got me involved when I was 18. I was here for five years, left for a while to pursue other things and then rejoined again ten years’ later. Now I’ve been here for 15 years in total!”
A friend of Keith Wood started in the service in 1993:
“We were going to join together but I was starting up my own business at the time, so I told him I’d join the next year. I did, and I’ve been here ever since.”
Leo Wells is currently training to be a firefighter:
“ A friend of mine was already here, and I took an interest in the job through him.”
James Harley’s grandad was in the fire brigade:
“He told me stories about it when I was a kid. For me, the job is about the purpose, and the crew. We’re all here for each other.”
If you would like to find out more about becoming an on-call firefighter, you are invited to drop by and meet the crew at their Saxby Lane station (Monday evenings 19:00 – 22:00).