Volunteer Firefighter in call for new crew members to help protect Strachur community

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A dedicated firefighter who has served and protected his community for almost three decades is now appealing for everyone’s support to help him find new crew members.

Volunteer Leader Alistair MacKechnie (centre) and Firefighters Ian MacPhee (left) and Niall Anderson (right) are running an Information Event on Saturday 3rd July at the station between 1-3pm.

The fire station at Strachur in Argyll and Bute has been forced to temporarily close because there are now only three available firefighters within the village, and a minimum crew of four is required to ensure they can respond safely and effectively to a range of different emergencies.

The station will re-open once new candidates have completed training. The crew will maintain their appliance and training whilst also carrying out prevention work, and fire cover will be provided by neighbouring stations.

FFVolunteer Leader Alistair MacKechnie and a team serving the wider Argyll and Bute area have worked to recruit and support applicants through the required training standards over the past few years - but is now calling on his community to help build a strong team for the future.

Married dad-of-two Alistair, a joiner to trade, said: “I have been a firefighter for 28 years and, when I became Leader two years ago, I carried out extensive recruitment efforts. I also ensured we had a presence at local events and actively encouraged people to join the station.

“The appliance is even used for the Christmas parade! We are so very proud to be part of this fantastic community and to stand ready to assist whenever we are needed. But I now need to ask for help and so I am calling on everyone to support us to recruit.

“I am finding it hard to face up to the fact that I presently cannot respond in our local area after nearly three decades on the job. It is all very well to get the appliance back on the run but I want to be more ambitious and build up a really strong team here in Strachur.”

The experienced firefighter, whose home overlooks Loch Fyne, became a Volunteer Firefighter in 1992 when the fire service vehicle was located in Montgomery’s garage. The crew located to new premises in the village centre in May 2000 and now respond to incidents in a volunteer support unit.

They have attended 93 incidents in the past five years including 22 special services such as flooding and road traffic collision, seven false alarms, 21 fires in refuse and grass and 43 instances where a fire warning system was inadvertently activated.

Alistair, aged 49 and known to friends as Ali, said: “I was full of enthusiasm when I joined the Service. I knew a lot of people in the village and I really just wanted to help. The job has changed and there is a lot more to learn but we are resilient people – just the same as everyone else here in Strachur.

“A lot of us here come from all walks of life and have various skills and life experiences – and that combination is most welcome at the Fire Service. It can really assist when it comes to a shout. For example, we once had to rescue a highland cow from a bog which is quite technical and one of the crew shared their insights to keep the animal calm which really helped!

“We can find ourselves being called to assist those we know, and this happened to me when a childhood friend was involved in a bad road traffic collision. We will always show compassion but we also draw on our professional training to ensure they are safely transferred to medical assistance.”

“But we want to do so much more for our community, he added. “We want to respond safely and effectively but we also want to be able to carry out more prevention work and support people with the knowledge to stay safe from risks and we can do that if we have a bigger crew.

“There is absolutely no doubt that the training standards are high but they are designed to ensure that we stay safe and the people we are working with to help stay safe - but we will absolutely help and support people through the training … every single step of the way.”

Are you interested in joining the crew at Strachur?

VL MacKechnie and Firefighters Niall Anderson, who has served his community for five years and is a joiner to trade, and Ian MacPhee, who has also served for five years and is a contract fencer, will be available to answer any questions on Saturday 3rd July at the station between 1-3pm.

All COVID-19 social distancing guidelines must be observed. Contact Verina Litster in advance to arrange a booking slot on 07867 506 737.

Joe McKay Local Senior Officer for East and West Dunbartonshire, Argyll and Bute and said: “I commend Volunteer Leader Alistair MacKechnie and Firefighters Niall Anderson and Ian MacPhee for their commitment to our Service and their community.

“I know that they and our wider team across Argyll and Bute have worked so hard to recruit to the Strachur station and I join with them in appealing to the community for support in helping to build a strong crew not only now but into the future.”

He added: “I am aware that people are concerned but I would underline once again that the fire station is not closing indefinitely and that this is a temporary measure that has had to be taken after the crewing level unexpectedly fell due to unforeseen circumstances.

“We have four candidates progressing through our recruitment process and are hopeful they will have completed their training in September whilst the existing crew will continue to undergo training and maintain the appliance to ensure it remains operational.

“The safety of Strachur is my highest priority and fire cover is being maintained through our established business continuity plans and we will continue to attend at every emergency.”

Fact file

  • Volunteer Duty System Firefighters live and or work within eight minutes of their fire station
  • They are supported by their primary employers to attend incidents during usual working hours
  • VDS Firefighters are equipped with transferable skills that benefit them and their employer
  • They are paid to attend training, weekly drill nights and any incidents that they attend
  • To become a VDS Firefighter, candidates should be aged 18. There is no upper age limit, provided candidates are in good health and can attain national fitness recruitment standards
  • VDS Candidates attend a two-week foundation course where they learn to use appliances and equipment safely and as part of a team
  • They then learn the fundamentals of Breathing Apparatus during a 2-week course
  • These courses are conducted within the EWDAB LSO area, usually at Oban
  • VDS Firefighters are supported by training teams to maintain and develop core/specialist skills
  • There are additional opportunities to attend specialist courses such as Emergency Response Driving (ERD), Road Traffic Collision (RTC) & Safe Working at Height (SWAH)
  • VDS Firefighters can attend incidents with Retained Duty System and Wholetime Firefighters
  • They also work alongside partners to provide safety advice in the local community
  • Find out more at /work-with-us/retained-firefighters.aspx

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