Meeting a retained firefighter at Midhurst Fire Station

Vicky meets...Matthew Cayford, retained (on-call) firefighter at Midhurst Fire Station

Wednesday, 11th December 2019, 4:41 pm
Matthew Cayford

How did you become a retained firefighter?

I joined WSFRS in May 2017 after a chimney fire incident across the road from me. The crew from Midhurst attended and my partner’s friend was one of the retained firefighters. Up to that point I wasn’t aware that there was a retained element to the fire service, but it was something that really appealed to me. I started to application process that evening. I work as an aircraft engineer at Gatwick where I work nights. This works well for me with the fire service as I can be on-call during the day.

What does the role entail?

Responding to 999 emergencies, attending incidents including fires, RTCs [road traffic collisions], animal rescues, and flooding. There is also a lot of non-emergency work that we do with the community to try and prevent emergencies arising in the first place. I am on-call for 50 hours a week. I go about my business as normal and only go in to the station when the alerter goes off. I find it fairly easy to fit it in around my fulltime employment and still maintain a good work-life balance.

What about training?

All new recruits go through a two week initial training course, which is followed by a number of further courses during your first two years. These include the wearing of breathing apparatus, responding to RTCs, hazardous materials and immediate emergency care and business fire safety. We also have annual refreshers and regular online learning. We are assessed thoroughly and regularly and our weekly drill night keeps our skills fresh and familiarises us with new equipment that may have arrived on station.

Tell me something that people might appreciate about your role?

People are always interested to learn that we fit this in with full time jobs. It can be demanding, but ultimately it is worth it. When that alerter goes off, someone is in need. Knowing that you have been able to help someone makes it all worthwhile.

Those who work in Emergency Services often work during the festive period. Are you?

I am on call Christmas Day this year. If the alerter goes off and we get called out to then that’s what happens! My family have definitely embraced the fire service. We do have occasional events to get everyone’s other halves and families together throughout the year to say thank you for putting up with it. I am looking forward to being on-call over Christmas; if I can make myself available and help then I will – that’s the main reason I joined the fire service. Though obviously we hope there won’t be any calls on Christmas Day or too many burnt turkeys.

How can people find out more about joining the fire and rescue service?

Visit the website and our social media, or come down to the station on drill night for a chat with the crews to find out more.

www.westsussex.gov.uk/fire-emergencies-and-crime/west-sussex-fire-and-rescue-service/fire-rescue-recruitment/become-an-on-call-firefighter