Did you know that the firefighters at Henfield Fire Station, a retained unit, have almost 190 years’ combined experience? There’s the recently retired Tony Hills coming in at 40 years, Andy Tullet at 36 and Station leader Jim Mundy with 30 years. They, along with Gary Singleton and Darren Ware who have both served for 20 years each, collected long service awards in a prestigious ceremony at Arundel Castle back in November. Congratulations to them all for such a significant achievement.
So, why is Henfield so unique, as a fully retained station, and one which attracts such loyalty? It was my second visit to meet the team (we featured them on our cover back in June 2018), on a much sunnier Monday evening during their training session. This time it’s January and a little frostier outside, but welcome is just as warm.
Just to explain, Henfield doesn’t have any full-time staff, but it’s manned by retained staff. These are just as highly qualified as ‘regular’ full time firefighters, and they have their own careers and day jobs. After the rigorous training programme and two years’ probation, they’re qualified and start to be ‘on call’. Each firefighter commits to different weekly on-call hours, ranging from 40 (minimum) right up to 120 hours a week, plus a one-night a week training session. Many of the Henfield crew run their own businesses, some work shifts (there are currently two pilots and one cabin crew member at Henfield) and some work very close to Henfield. If they’re on call then they need to live a maximum of a four-minute journey time to the Fire Station, which is opposite the Shell Garage at Golden Square.
There are no age limitations (aside from being over 17.5 years on application), but there are medical and fitness tests which need to be passed on a regular basis, the ‘bleep test’. This involves ladder climbs & lifts, casualty evacuation, enclosed spaces tests and equipment assembly and carry tests.
It’s an achievable test but does need some physical strength and agility – it would be suited to most people (both male and female) of decent physical fitness levels. That’s just the start, the other attributes, if you feel keen to join, you may already find you have. The ability to work as a team and put your crew and their wellbeing above your own. The knowledge to know that someone else’s life may be in your hands. The ability to take orders and remain calm. The ability to make a decent cup of tea and get on well with others is also an advantage!
The role would work around school hours if you’re thinking about going back to work after having children. Female applicants are encouraged, and if you’re at all worried about being in a male dominated environment, I can reassure you, Henfield is the most open and friendly station with no sense of one-upmanship or bravado, there is no space for egos in the Fire Service. The role would also work for someone who runs their own local business, especially if your customers are local – it means your ‘on call’ hours can be daytime as well as night. The job is flexible and incredibly rewarding, which is illustrated by the long-service awards – it’s clearly a great job and a highly respected role in the community.
One of the Henfield retained crew is also a full-time firefighter attached to Haywards Heath station, Kevin Wadey agreed to become retained at Henfield from a sense of community, it’s important that Henfield keep their crew numbers up to man the appliance, which needs a minimum of four crew to attend a call-out.
Henfield do a huge amount of ‘proactive’ safety work and are happy to visit individual addresses to give Living Safe and Well advice. They enjoy this outreach part of their jobs and always love a chat about their jobs and you’ll often see them at Henfield events such as the Village Fair, School Fete or the Christmas evening. Raising awareness and fire prevention is hugely important.
The station receives, on average, a call-out every other day. These could be almost anything; from fires and floods to RTCs and even animals in distress. Their catchment goes from Horsham to Haywards Heath and Worthing, the call-centre immediately summons the nearest available appliance to any distress call. Sometimes the calls are hard, and the crew need some help to process what they've witnessed. The strength is in their combined experience, of knowing when someone needs to talk or when they need to have their own space. The team acknowledge that the ‘hard calls’ can be challenging. But these are the ones that can make a difference, they know how important their presence is and the professional autopilot of ‘doing the job’ kicks in, even if sometimes the outcome isn’t good. The families will always know that people who cared did the very best they could.
The Henfield crew are very proud to be firefighters, they love their jobs, in fact Tony Hills said “it never felt like coming to work,’” which is as good a recommendation as you can get. We are in their debt, for all the call-outs they’ve done, for the lives they have saved and the people they’ve comforted.
If reading this has made you think it could be for you, please don’t hesitate. Give Jim Mundy, Henfield Station Watch Manager, a call on 07742 128900 or email email@example.com and pop round for a ‘brew with the crew’. You will be warmly welcomed.
Finally, to the crew at Station 56 Henfield; thank you for your service, from us all.