A retained firefighter is celebrating a decade at Staffordshire Fire and Rescue after achieving his lifelong dream of securing a whole-time position on a casual basis.
I vividly remember the time when I first realised I wanted to be a firefighter. I was four-years-old and Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service came to my school.
Spencer Smith was recently named Temporary Crew Manager for Orange Watch at Newcastle having served with the organisation as a retained firefighter for ten years.
Having been in his new role for a few weeks he admitted that this move is the result of a mixture of hard work and a helping hand.
Spencer said: “I vividly remember the time when I first realised I wanted to be a firefighter. I was four-years-old and Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service came to my school. They let you try on the helmets and see the truck and that had a massive influence on me to the point that when I was growing up all I ever wanted to be was a firefighter.
“From the age of 17, I applied for numerous brigades as a whole-time firefighter but it wasn’t until 2009 that I got through to applying for a retained position. I put my initial application in and they rejected it at first. So, I redid it and got a phone call from Rob Barber – who’s now the Deputy Chief Fire Officer – and he told me they were going to put me through the process.
“Obviously that was really exciting for me and at each stage of the process, Rob would take the time to sit with me and offer feedback. Whenever, I was up at HQ during that period, Rob would always come and see how I was getting on and he was really encouraging. His help was greatly appreciated and I owe him a lot.
“Rob’s influence was really helpful because it sort of gave me the push, the encouragement to go forward because starting off was quite an eye opener. It’s a completely different ball game to what I’d been familiar with.
“It’s a disciplined service and the training you’re put through is hard core. For instance, I will never forget my first experience of hose running because it’s absolutely relentless. You’ve got instructors telling you it’s the best job in the world and at the time, I really questioned that!
“I’ve now been around the organisation long enough to understand why it needs to be so difficult, but at the time you really have to push yourself through it. I had to be ready to go and on the ball 24/7 and I was deflated at times, but Rob was always around at the right moments to offer the support I needed.
“It was completely new and so difficult but when you start getting on station, start mixing with the watch and start going to incidents you soon begin to realise that this is the best job in the world. I feel honoured to be a part of it all to be honest because I absolutely love it and I’m as keen now as I was on day one. I love going to work.
“When I finally managed to get in, I was elated and really proud – as was my family. They always knew what this meant to me and they knew I had that tenacity to keep going and keep plugging away because it was what I wanted.
“And the last ten years has been quite a journey. The first three years I was inundated with different tasks and was trying to adapt to the new work/life balance. It became difficult to maintain because I was still in full time work elsewhere. Those years were tough but it’s so worth it. Since then, I’ve achieved so much – including being the lead instructor for the fire cadets for two years. That was really rewarding.
“I’ve also been able to use Staffordshire Fire and Rescue as a platform for the charity work I’ve done as well. I’ve run marathons and half marathons in fire kit to raise money for a range of local and national charities so I feel privileged to have done all I have. I was even nominated for two awards on the back of my charity work so I can definitely say the highs far outweigh the lows.
“Hopefully the future will bring that permanent whole-time position and I’ll keep plugging away until I get that. I will hopefully spend some more time in this Crew Manager role, gain more exposure to different incidents and continue to help the amazing people we have here to achieve their goals.
“I’ve been bullied a lot of my life and that can really knock you down. My time at Staffordshire Fire and Rescue has really built my confidence back up and has made me the best version of myself. I’ll be forever grateful for that.
“My advice to someone in a similar positon is to never give up and just stick to your principals. If you’ve got the right values and outlook then you’re halfway there. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get in initially, just keep at it and use the time you have well. Get feedback and use it to make positive changes to benefit you going forward. It really is the best job in the world.”
Following our interview with Spencer, we shared his words with Deputy Fire Chief Officer, Rob Barber.
Rob said: “At the time I met Spencer, I was a Station Manager at Newcastle and as such was responsible for improving the on-call availability. I remember him being very keen and attending drill nights each week, as an observer. That showed me he was always eager to learn and to ask questions which was really great to see.
“I know he has had a few knockbacks however it has never dampened his enthusiasm and willingness to learn from feedback. It is now great to see that all of his hard work is paying off, I know that he is a great role model and an asset to the Service and with his dedication to continuously improving he will do well in his new role.”