Alex Barton is an on-call firefighter at Longridge station. He has recently been promoted to Crew Manager and when he’s not at the station or attending incidents, he’s busy managing a gymnastics gym in Longridge.
How did you find out about on-call firefighting?
When I was at college I joined the Fire Cadets which was added on to the course I was doing, I got quite interested in it and then I applied for on call when I was 18, that was six years ago.
Are you from the local area?
I’ve lived in Longridge for most of my life, so I knew the fire station was here, but I wasn’t aware there was retained and wholetime firefighters. It was in the Fire Cadets I learned that you could be in the fire service and still have your main job as well.
What is your main job?
I teach and run a gymnastics club, I used to do gymnastics and then I started coaching when I was 14 – having a background in sport has helped me with the fitness tests we have to do. That involves working in the evenings, so I go on call in the morning, I’ll do my admin at lunch time and then later go to work coaching.
How many hours do you commit to on call?
I do about 80 hours on call a week, so sometimes I can finish coaching at 9pm and I’m back on call at 10pm! I’m at the club every day except Sunday and we have around 400 members from age 4 up to 18.
Were your expectations of being on call different from the reality?
I think being in the Fire Cadets prepared me for it, I also attended drill nights before I applied, someone else joined with me and we both came to drill nights in the run up to the course. It did really help as you see what they do and get to know the crew.
Did you feel supported throughout the application process?
I did, it helped coming down to the drill nights as they would give you a heads up on things you’d need to do as part of the application.
Can you tell us about a memorable incident you’ve been to?
It tends to be the jobs where you’re one of the first pumps in attendance and there’s lots to do, they are the better call outs. In Longridge we get a lot of barn fires, car fires, tractors on fire, things like that. We’re also close to Preston and Blackburn fire stations, so we’ll sometimes get called out to warehouse fires if they are particularly big. An incident that sticks in my memory is when we attended a barn fire as we were the first pump there and we could see all the smoke from the station. We knew it was a proper fire and we knew it was only us, there wasn’t any other stations attending. I saved three kittens on that job!
Does the station have a “second family” feel to it?
Yeah we all get along and we’re all in the same boat, when you’re on call everyone’s the same in that we don’t have the freedom to go and see people outside of Longridge. During incidents we all know each other and how we each cope with things and people’s individual strengths, for example we have a mechanic so for car crashes he’s a good person to have on the crew. If we get back off a job that has been difficult, we’ll sit and have a brew and talk it through.
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If you or someone you know is interested in being an on-call firefighter, apply here: www.lancsfirerescue.org.uk/careers