STORM Gertrude has highlighted the importance of retained firefighters to rural communities, a senior officer has insisted.
As a result of the recent battering across the country, the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service has issued an appeal for more people to be part of the brigade.
John MacDonald, group manager for Highland region, said: “With storms becoming more frequent and the damage they cause more serious the need for new retained firefighters has never been greater.
“It is immensely satisfying to know you have the skills to help keep people in the town or village you live in safe and I would urge anyone who feels they can help to get in touch.
“The services ability to support community resilience means we rely on people from the community coming forward to join the retained duty system.”
He added: “RDS (retained duty system) firefighters can also be called upon to work with whole time firefighters to promote fire safety messages, giving fire safety advice to schools and other organisations as well as carrying out free home fire risk assessments within their communities.
“It is a very rewarding job and there are tangible benefits for employers who support and allow their staff to become RDS firefighters.”
GM MacDonald is thankful to those employers who already support those members of staff who are retained firefighters and he is calling on other local businesses and employers to consider supporting their staff by allowing them to sign up.
He continued: “Employing a retained firefighter brings a whole new range of skills and experience to your workplace as well as contributing to making your local community safer for those who live, work and come to visit.
“We currently have vacancies at a number of our stations in Highland we are really keen to meet you to discuss and explore recruitment opportunities as well as to discuss the range of skills and training you can receive once you join.”
The latest phase of recruitment for new RDS firefighters opens on 1 February.
The fire officer is encouraging people to support their communities by signing up to join the service.
There are a number of vacancies available across Highland with new recruits required at stations in: Achiltibuie, Aultbea, Dingwall, Fortrose, Gairloch, Ullapool, Invergordon, Kinlochbervie, Lochinver, Scourie, Tain, Wick, Bettyhill, Tongue, Dunbeath, John O’Groats, Lairg, Helmsdale, Dornoch, Bonar Bridge, Durness, Nairn, Cannich, Drumnadrochit, Foyers, Beauly, Aviemore, Grantown-on-Spey, Kingussie.
You must be aged 18 years or over, have a good level of physical fitness, have the required standard of vision and colour perception and live or work within five to eight minutes of the fire station.
In return RDS firefighters are paid an annual retainer fee plus additional payments for every incident attended and time spent on all activity including training nights, community engagement and courses.
To prove their importance, firefighters are working flat out to protect families, motorists and homes as Storm Gertrude pummels the country.
Fire crew attended at incidents across Scotland as strong winds and rain wreaked havoc.
And Assistant Chief Officer, Lewis Ramsay, director of response and Resilience said SFRS would continue to help wherever needed.
He said: “Our crews are here to respond to the needs of our local communities and provide the highest level of emergency response.
“Firefighters are working with partner agencies to resolve incidents as quickly as possible and are fully committed to protect our communities and work to ensure their safety during this period of difficult weather. We will continue to respond wherever we are needed.
“In this type of weather I would urge people to follow advice issued by Floodline Scotland, our Police Scotland colleagues and by Transport Scotland, which will help them stay safe and also avoid running into difficulty on the roads.”
There were numerous incidents throughout the morning.
In the north, two teams from Huntly in Aberdeenshire raced to the A96 after receiving an alert at 7.25am of a lorry which had blown over onto a car.The people in the car managed to get themselves clear but the lorry driver had to be freed by firefighters. The occupants of both vehicles suffered a variety of injuries - but none are believed to be life threatening.
At 7.26am, firefighters were told that a curtain sided lorry had blown over on the A90 between Glamis and Forfar. The driver had managed to get out before they arrived but firefighters made sure the scene was safe.
The Kirriemuir crew was then called to attend an incident in Roebeck, Glamis. A corrugated sheet had been blown off by the wind and was left hanging over a road. Firefighters secured the sheet and made that area safe.
They also removed a loose chimney and masonry at 7.54am in Princes Street, Dundee
Firefighters were then called to the St Andrews Parish Church in Atholl Street, Perth at 8.19am to remove a broken window pane which was hanging over onto the street.
A poly-tunnel which had taken off in the wind from the Douglas Community Centre in Balmoral Place, Dundee was also grabbed by a crew at 8.19am.
The Brechin team is currently in the town’s Dalls Lane where the doors of a garage have been blown off by the wind. They are working to make the area safe.
The Highlands and Islands were also battered by the storm.
At 7.48am Fortrose firefighters were warned that a tree had fallen and broken electrical cables in Fletcher Gardens, Avoch in the Black Isle. They immediately threw up a cordon around the area as SSE isolated the power.
And cars were being hit by flying roofing tiles in Seaforth Road, Ullapool shortly afterwards, at 7.53am. A local crew checked out the roof of the affected home to ensure it was water-tight as they cleared the street and made it safe for the public.
Two trees had also been blown onto separate locations within a mile stretch of road on the B9176, at Ardross and Newbridge. Crews at Dingwall were alerted at 8.11am.
And the Thurso crew secured a massive steel shed which had blown into a garden at 8.57am.