A firefighter from one of Scotland’s smallest villages is urging his neighbours to help protect their community.
Stephen Challis has spent the past 50 years living in rural Colmonell, which sits eleven miles from Girvan with a population of around 200 people. The picturesque village offers a church, small primary school and a public house – and a fire station. Council worker Stephen has spent the last 24 years serving his neighbours as a retained firefighter, responding to emergencies via an on call pager system. And he is calling on others from every walk of life to follow in his footsteps. The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service is particularly keen to welcome more women as well as members of ethnic and LGBT+ communities. Stephen told how the role is varied and can include prevention work such as free Home Fire Safety Visits where firefighters will visit residents to provide safety advice and even check or install smoke detectors. It can also include showing people of all ages how to perform CPR and potentially save a life. Firefighters will be trained and equipped to respond to various incidents including road traffic collisions. Reflecting on his work, 58-year-old Stephen said: “We realise that when we attend at incidents there is a chance we’ll know the people involved. “My first road traffic collision was actually responding to an accident involving one of my friends. “Thankfully he recovered and joined the retained service years later.” He added: “It can be very personal and intimate work and that is why it is important for us to work as part of a close and supportive team. “The local community feel you are part of them – their fire service. “We really enjoy engaging wherever possible and with people of all ages to show them how to stay safe.” Seven years ago, the Colmonell crew was boosted by the arrival of Stephen’s son Mark. Stephen revealed: “When Mark first started there were extra nerves when he was going up a ladder or out to an incident, but you get used to it. “Both of us are in the same job, facing the same risks. “I think the fire service runs through families. There are quite a few parents and children who serve.” Like many rural areas across the country, Colmonell is in need of more retained firefighters. Stephen explained: “I grew up in the village – I’ve been here since 1970. “But these days people travel out with the village to find work – many of the farms and estates don’t employ as many people. “It is therefore imperative that we actively work to reflect our diverse communities and reach out to everyone to join our Service – please be assured that you will be supported every step of the way. “It’s difficult to beat being there for your community.” For more on what it takes to become a retained firefighter visit: www.firescotland.gov.uk/work-with-us/retained-firefighters.aspx For other opportunities visit: www.myjobscotland.gov.uk/emergency-services/scottish-fire-and-rescue-service/jobs