'Lives could be saved by new fire recruits': Retiring Dales fire chief's call for North Yorkshire station

Retiring head of Summerbridge Fire Station Neil Gillies with crew manager Shane Skaife, firefighter Darren Crockford, fire fighter Alex Tordoff, crew manager Andy Milner and fire fighter Stuart Harrison
Retiring head of Summerbridge Fire Station Neil Gillies with crew manager Shane Skaife, firefighter Darren Crockford, fire fighter Alex Tordoff, crew manager Andy Milner and fire fighter Stuart Harrison
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After three decades of service the retiring head of Summerbridge Fire Station has called for new blood to help fill the ranks of the Dales’ life-saving retained firefighters.

Taking part in his final set of drills at the station last Saturday (December, 29), the North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service Watch Manager, Neil Gillies, bid farewell to the station where he has served since 1988.

Speaking to the Nidderdale Herald following his departure, he highlighted the need for more recruits, with Summerbridge currently operating with five retained firefighters. For it to be fully staffed it would need 12.

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He said: “It’s really important to have a fully crewed station at Summerbridge, because the nearest after that is Harrogate, and we currently only have a crew of five.That means the fire engine won’t be available all of the time, because there isn’t enough of a crew.

“It’s about doing something for the community, and it’s a valuable service. The next pump is 20 minutes away, and you can make a lot of difference in those first minutes of an incident.”

He added: “If more recruits could be drawn to the station it would mean that the engine is available to go out to more incidents, and potentially helping to save lives.”

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Over his 30 years the array of incidents Mr Gillies has attended has shown him how important the service can be to the community.

He said: “During my time here I have been to a wide range of incidents, from animal rescues to very serious house fires and road traffic collisions where people have had to be cut out.”

He added: “One incident we attended in Bedale, propane cylinders had caught fire and were flying up in to the air. You never know what sort of incidents you could be called out to.”

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Retained firefighters provide cover from home and place of work, informing NYFRS when they are available to respond to emergencies. They are paid a retaining fee.

Whilst serving at Summerbridge, Mr Gillies also worked as one of the four Watch Managers at Harrogate Fire Station.

He said: “It’s a very rewarding job, being able to help people. There isn’t really an average day, we have great team spirit here, and you learn lots of different skills.”

If you live or work between Pateley Bridge and Darley and are interested in joining the service, call 01609 780150.