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Financial adviser swaps loans for ladders in role as on-call firefighter

March 3 2020

Balancing both books and a life as an on-call firefighter is one woman’s job in Abbots Bromley.

Because of the internet, you can now work 24/7 so both jobs are really flexible.

Watch Manager Sara Wilkinson

Sara Wilkinson has been an on-call firefighter for Staffordshire Fire & Rescue Service since 2002 and is encouraging others to sign up and help their communities in what she describes as “extremely rewarding job”.

The 48-year-old went to see the watch manager at Abbots Bromley fire station all those years ago after becoming interested in joining. Since then, the rest is history and her commitment to the service is stronger than ever.

Sara said: “I always wanted to be Josie in London’s Burning but didn’t think it was possible for a woman to be in the fire service. Someone stopped me and told me about the role so I went to see the watch manager at the time. Looking back, I wish I’d done it sooner.

“I’ve been a financial adviser since I left school but as long as I haven’t got long distance customers, I can do both. I can be on call and do admin work and daily routine stuff whilst also carrying my bleeper. Because of the internet, you can now work 24/7 so both jobs are really flexible.

“There’s also opportunities for career progression. I started off as an on-call firefighter but I’ve been lucky enough to progress to watch manager.”

Sara lives next door to the fire station and can get called at any time whilst on-call to fight a blaze.

“I’m on call around 100 hours a week, but some weeks it could be 140. The minimum commitment is 50 hours so it is a huge commitment but it is possible – a lot of the time it’s down to multitasking,” Sara said.

“It’s not right for everyone but it’s very rewarding and with the training we’re given sets us up for life - from animal rescue, water rescue to first aid – you never know when you’ll need those skills. I had to do CPR on my own grandmother and some of the animal rescue techniques I’ve even had to use on my own horse. You can use the skills in all walks of life.”

There are currently seven on-call firefighters based at the station but more are needed – both at the station and around the county.

Sara added: “I love the buzz of having an alerter and not knowing what we might be called out to and the balance of two jobs. Helping people is what really makes me tick. Whether that’s helping someone financially to achieve their goals and buy a house, or helping save someone or their property in a fire.

“Being an on-call firefighter is ultimate job satisfaction – you’re always there for people. It might be the wrong place, but it’s at the right time.

“Anyone interested in coming to join us can come and talk to us – we have people in our team from all walks of life and though it’s a big commitment, we’re proof that we can make it work.”

Staffordshire Fire & Rescue Service is recruiting for on-call firefighters across the county. Retained firefighters provide emergency response cover from either their home or work base, which needs to be within five minutes of their local station. After the initial training course, on-call firefighters will attend weekly drill nights to ensure they maintain their skills, along with many more opportunities for training throughout the year.

As well as responding to emergencies, on-call firefighters can also get involved in community fire safety initiatives in their local area, including home fire risk checks and school visits.

Anyone looking to become an on-call firefighter must by over 18 and live within five minutes of their nearest station. For more information, visit: https://www.staffordshirefire.gov.uk/careers/retained-on-call-firefighters/.