Lancashire Fire & Rescue's on-call everyday superheroes: “Being able to really make a difference gives me a real buzz”

The Lytham fire crewThe Lytham fire crew
The Lytham fire crew
In 2007, Danila Brethnacht wanted a change of career. Working as a gym manager for West Lancashire Borough Council, she considered returning to university to study nursing. “I wanted to do something where I could help others,” she says.

“Then, the fire service approached us to put up recruitment posters which said ‘you don’t have to lift the toilet seat up to be a firefighter,’” adds Danila. “I read more about the role, applied, and got a job opportunity with Lancs.”

Having worked for Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service ever since - first as a firefighter before being promoted to crew manager in 2012 - Danila became the on-call support manager at Wesham Fire Station in September 2021.

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On-call firefighters provide ad hoc cover from home or work, responding to emergencies when their pager alerts them. They live or work within five minutes of the fire station and are, like their full-time colleagues, trained to deal with a wide range of situations and incidents.

Danila BrethnachtDanila Brethnacht
Danila Brethnacht

Regardless of employment status, anyone can be an on-call firefighter provided they are over 18, have good all-round fitness, have good eyesight and hearing, are able to commit to a two-hour weekly training session, and are enthusiastic about the undoubtedly vital role.

With Covid having impacted many people’s availability as on-call firefighters, Lancs Fire & Rescue is currently looking to recruit new people for training courses this October.

“Ultimately, it was the physical aspect of the work and the fact that I would be able to help people which I loved,” says Rochdale-born Danila, 37. “I also loved the varied nature of the role.

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“Being able to really make a difference, even now when I’m helping with the development of younger firefighters, gives you a real buzz,” she adds. “You feel a real exhilaration when your alerter goes off and you have to respond to an emergency because there’s always satisfaction in resolving something for someone.”

Lancashire Fire & RescueLancashire Fire & Rescue
Lancashire Fire & Rescue

With the application process open until June 20th, Lancs Fire & Rescue recently held recruitment days at stations around the county for potential applicants to drop in, ask questions, and meet the crew.

Required to be available for a set number of hours per week and, in return, paid a salary, on-call firefighters not only respond to fires but also provide community education and advice on fire safety as well as attending incidents ranging from road, rail or air crashes to floods, fires, chemical spills, or rescuing people trapped in confined spaces.

“Anyone considering it, definitely go to your local station, speak to the unit manager or an on-call support manager, and have a chat with the crews about their experiences,” says Danila. “There’s a real camaraderie involved too - my office is based at Wesham and the crew there gets together for social events, we have gym sessions together, and we have a really strong relationship.

“It’s a great thing to do for the local community: you’re helping your neighbours, which gives you a lot of pride,” adds Danila. “There’s no harm in having a go!”

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