The study, undertaken into the characteristics and aspirations of retained, auxiliary and volunteer fire-fighters, also found a high level of job satisfaction, great personal satisfaction and that many remain in the service for a long time.
* Reasons for joining
* The majority of fire-fighters said the importance of helping the community, doing something worthwhile and gaining new skills were their reasons for joining
* About half joined on the encouragement of an existing member
The joining experience
A large majority (90 per cent) found problems with the selection process. One of the key issues was being unaware of what to expect and the breadth and detail of the written test and interview
Reasons for staying
Overall there was a positive response with a high level of personal satisfaction gained from the work
Very positive view of its quality, depth and value. (around 50percent were satisfied or very satisfied with the training they received)
Questioning over the time given to training each week and whether this can be cut back due to routine tasks such as maintenance, equipment testing, cleaning and paperwork
The experience of being a rural or retained fire-fighter
Overall the fire-fighters were found to be immensely committed to their role and that they gained a significant level of personal satisfaction from their work
The main wish was to see their contribution to the service was not fully recognised or appreciated
The report also suggested some issues for further consideration. These were:
Allowing potential candidates to meet the staff of the unit the wish to join
Further involvement of units in selection process for new recruits
More information on what to expect from selection process
Targeted advertising for recruits
Examination of the possibility of a pension scheme
More pro-active approach by employers to encourage them to release staff to join the service
Public recognition of the contribution of local employers
Increased recognition of the support given to fire-fighters by their families
Encouraging family involvement in open days and arranging more social events with families
Deputy justice minister Richard Simpson said:
'It is vital we do not underestimate the role of rural and retained fire-fighters in our local communities who provide daily, often at a cost to their family life, the protection and support needed against fire and other emergencies.
'This report shows a clear commitment by fire-fighters and tells us a great deal about those who serve in a demanding job for the benefit of others. It is important we recognise their concerns and build on the more positive aspects to improve what is already an essential and highly valued service.'
The definitions of volunteer, auxiliary and retained fire-fightersare as follows:
Volunteer - generally located in small rural communities and are not paid a retaining fee. They only deal with small number of calls and the nearest wholetime or retained unit will also be called out. They receive significantly less training.
Auxiliary - Volunteers who are equipped and trained to level approaching that of retained unit
Retained - paid an annual retainer fee in return for being on call. Generally equipped the same as wholetime units and get generally the same training.