A DIY store deputy manager has spoken of his pride in his role as an on-call firefighter as the service seeks to take on more people interested in the role.

All fire stations in Herefordshire include on-call firefighters, who are men and women who are aged 18+, who live or work within five minutes of the fire station, and who can commit to being on-call for a minimum of 40 hours of each week. They form more than 60% of the operational firefighters.

For Chris Cox, deputy manager of the Leominster B&Q store, it was a good way of becoming part of the village community.

“While I lived ​near Kingsland, I had not had too much to do with village life,” he said.

“This was a way of putting something back as well as adding another string to my bow after working in hotels and retail for 20 years.”

Chris signed up to be an on-call firefighter in February 2020, just as the pandemic was starting to hit which delayed him being able to take his courses until October. But he was soon in the action after qualifying.

“After I started, we had five shouts in the first two weeks but we have had very few in the last month,” he said. “Overall, we get around 100 shouts in a year.

“The first few I went on were automatic fire alarms ​and smaller jobs, so the first shout which really made an impact was a fire at a wood-chipping grader. That was my first experience of using breathing apparatus operationally.”

Chris acknowledges the support he has received from his wife and family, as well as his employer, since making the commitment to become an on-call firefighter.

“My six-year-old daughter is particularly proud of her dad,” he said.

“B&Q and my manager have been great in giving me the time that I needed – I’m doing my Level 4 Retail Management Apprenticeship as well so things have been quite busy.”

Jonathan Davis, manager of Leominster B&Q, said: “It has been really great to be able to support Chris with his development both inside and outside of B&Q. We are really proud to be able to have an on-call firefighter as part of our B&Q family.”

Chris had no problem with the fitness requirements of the fire service: “I have quite a physical job and I’m constantly on my feet,” he said. “And I’ve got the determination. Becoming an on-call firefighter is a great way of giving back to the community and gaining a wide variety of life skills.

“You also gain a family atmosphere and really feel part of a team – I know that at Kingsland I will always have 10 colleagues behind me who will always be watching my back.”

On-call firefighters combine their roles with other careers, or roles at home, providing a vital service to the community in which they live and work. Some work for local businesses, others are self-employed, while others are home-makers – but all enjoy the balance of their firefighter commitments with their other responsibilities, and the extra income too, knowing that they are saving more lives.

To learn more about becoming an on-call firefighter, visit www.hwfire.org.uk/on-call