‘Like a rugby team, there’s a place for everyone in the fire service’


Oxfordshire County Council’s Fire and Rescue Service is launching a recruitment campaign for more on-call firefighters. Woodstock Fire Station's Watch Manager, Nick Mason, shares his experiences from 18 years in the fire service. 

Rugby fanatic Nick Mason makes a number of comparisons between his favourite sport and being an on-call firefighter with Oxfordshire County Council’s Fire and Rescue Service, breaking some misconceptions along the way.  

Nick who played scrum half for Witney Rugby Club for 14 years said:

“Like in a rugby team, there’s a place for everyone in fire and rescue; from the heavily built, to the slim sprinter, the slow one, and the tall one.”

When talking to potential new recruits, Nick also describes the fire engine as “a huge toolbox on wheels”, reflecting the diverse range of incidents that he and colleagues attend. The vehicle is equipped to deal with each circumstance such as structural fires, road traffic collisions, water rescues, and hazardous materials incidents.

Diverse range of roles

What Nick’s getting at is that in today’s fire service, the diverse range of incidents and roles mean there isn’t a one size fits all. At 59, he is also keen to point out that age isn’t a barrier to joining the Oxfordshire team either.

Nick explains: “I remember someone saying to me, you’ll know when you’ve grown up; police and firefighters will all look younger than you. That’s not today’s fire and rescue service, I’m a fair example of that. I’m keen we recruit more older people, women and residents from minority ethnic groups. The modern fire service must be and should be diverse, reflecting multi-cultural Oxfordshire.”

This Woodstock based firefighter is opening a door to many people who have perhaps considered applying to join the service but thought that age, and lack of fitness, would go against them.

Much more than putting out fires

“Come and find out if you have what it takes,” enthuses Nick. “If you don’t try, you don’t know. Any new recruit will be given first class fitness training and because today’s fire service is so much more than putting out fires and attending major incidents, intellect is just as important as strength.”

In fact, Nick enjoys the interaction with local communities arranging road safety events, visits to local schools, safe and well visits in the home – fitting smoke alarms – and at the lighter but equally important end of the scale, participating in fundraising charity bashes like car washes in aid of the firefighters’ charity.

“We tend to have a topic for every month of the year to get a seasonal safety message out to the public,” says Nick. “My fire station is also prolific in raising money for children in need.

“If you’re a people person, you’ll fit in nicely.”

Challenging sides to the role

He acknowledges that there are challenging sides to the role, such as attending serious injury incidents but the fire service has evolved to protect and support its crews at distressing times.

“We always complete detailed after-incident debriefs, making sure any crew member who has attended challenging incidents gets necessary help if required. Luckily these tragic events are few and far between, which I hope in some cases is due to our interaction with communities through our fire safety and road safety education initiatives.”

Cats and dogs

Nick continued: “Children used to get their heads stuck between metal railings but today’s youngsters are too busy on their computers to cause such mischief! I do have a selection of animal rescue stories though.

“There was the householder who loved her cat more than her tree. When, after many hours, I had to explain that the only way to recover her feline from the topmost branch was to cut down her treasured tree, she agreed!

“Then when there was a call to rescue a lad trapped in a gate, turned out to be a Labrador. Lad. Lab. It’s amazing how a crackly line can blur expectations of what we’re going to find. I can assure you that whether it’s an animal or a human, we treat every incident seriously, and I’m delighted that we quickly rescued the pooch.”

Proud grandad

“I’m a proud grandad to my seven month old Logan. The family stuff sits side by side with everything that’s special about being a member of Oxfordshire County Council’s Fire and Rescue Service.

“My new family member got me thinking of another reason why we want more older residents to join the service. Our younger recruits are stars but we often lose them all too quickly. When they start, they might be living at home but then move out of the area to find their own place or to chase their career dreams; on-call firefighters are only part-time.

“The further you get in life, often the more settled you become. Your career outside the fire service plateaus, you’ve less time to go until the mortgage is repaid. You’re settled with your lot in life, looking for an extra commitment to play a part in your local community.

“I guess my message is that you’re never too old to be considered. Straightforward, if you’re in two minds about joining the fire service – get in contact.”

Get in contact

Nick sums it up: “Remember, I’m 59, nearly 60. I’ve been a firefighter for 18 years and I love it as much as the day I started.”

For further information about becoming an on-call firefighter, and other employment opportunities in Oxfordshire County Council’s Fire and Rescue Service, visit Oxfordshire.gov.uk/oncallfirefighters or email fire.recruitment@oxfordshire.gov.uk


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