Wyre Forest Fire Station: 22nd May 2024

Report and photographs by Mary Austin, FWW Trustee.

On May 22nd volunteers from FWW enjoyed a visit to the relatively new Wyre Forest Fire Station, which serves Kidderminster, Bewdley and Stourport. This was part of a programme of events, that happen twice a year, to introduce chaplains, trustees and supporters to different aspects of the world of work, as well as providing an opportunity to reflect together on aspects of chaplaincy.

The invitation to Wyre Forest Fire Station came through Rev Dick Johnson FWW Development Officer, through his part-time role as Lead Chaplain to Hereford & Worcester Fire and Rescue Service.

During our visit we met Station Commander Rich Young and the fire fighters of Blue Watch – Crew Commander Josh, Fire Fighters Chris, and Katie, as well as Watch Commander Mark, on duty from Hereford to fill a gap left due to leave.

We were shown around one of the appliances to discover the vast array of equipment that they carry – all carefully stowed for quick and immediate use in an emergency.We learned of the work of a fire fighter – so much more than tackling fires. We also met Robin Douglas, the prevention engagement officer for North Worcestershire. His job involves working with other organisations to promote safety, conduct home fire safety visits, distribute smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and visit schools to talk about road safety. With his colleagues he covers the whole region working with every watch in every station.

Josh and Chris demonstrate RTC rescue tools

Fire fighters work a variety of shift patterns, from those who work on-call from home or work, to watches like Blue Watch Wyre Forest, who work a two day/two night/four rest day pattern, equivalent to 48 hrs over 8 days. They can be called to fires, RTCs (Road Traffic Collisions) to search for missing persons, and rescue people from water, amongst many other tasks.

They also help with Prevention work, conducting business and home safety checks most days, and may assist with conducting investigations that can sometimes end up in court. Their priority and core value is to put the community first. They described many challenges to their work within what is still a traditional, hierarchical organisation – following commands, something essential to staying safe in a dangerous job!

Rich outlined some of his responsibilities as Station Commander – he has been a fire fighter for more than 20 years, following in his father’s footsteps, and has worked in many roles across the service, before taking charge at Wyre Forest in April. His job can be stressful as, for so many, his work is driven by targets. He explained that the higher up you go the more political the job becomes.

We learnt how, as with so many public services, the Fire Service faces budget constraints trying to balance the challenges presented with resources whilst under pressure to ensure the public get the best service. We were told that in the past there might have been 15 full time fire fighters on duty at a station such as Wyre Forest. Today that is just 4, with an on-call watch available when needed. (On-call fire fighters have to live or work within 5 minutes of the station and carry pagers, dropping everything to turn-in when called night or day). Inevitably firefighters have less time to do essential community link work, a deficit which has come to be filled with on accredited volunteers covering important prevention roles.

Dick has been their Lead Chaplain since 2006 and at one time worked with a team of volunteers from local churches – in 2010 there were 12. Now there is just Dick and Stuart, chaplain at Pershore Fire Station – and a FWW trustees. The role of chaplains is to be there as in other situations, to listen and offer support, but Dick also coordinates the Critical Incident Support Team and visits throughout the service helping people cope with traumatic incidents such as death, serious injury or anything involving a child.

Our morning at the Fire Station ended with buffet lunch, a great time to meet others in the FWW family. We all came away with new insights into another area of work – the needs, the stresses and the valuing of chaplains by those they visit.

(Photographs by Mary Austin © Faith at Work in Worcestershire)

Future Workplace Visit seminars

The next workplace visit and seminar is planned for the autumn. Details will be posted here as soon as they are available.

Training video on how we should respond to those facing unemployment:

How to become a workplace chaplain

The Revd Dick Johnson will also run training courses for those who would like to become workplace chaplains organised by particular churches, or ecumenical groups in specific locations. Please get in touch if you would like to enquire about FWW running a training course for you.