Monday, 29 October 2012

Kilchoan Fire Station Threatened

Kilchoan fire team has a maximum compliment of eleven, but at present has nine members.  We need a full compliment since several firemen work away from the village during the day, and at least four, and preferably five, have to be available in the close locality during working hours to allow the team to respond.

Two new, and very promising recruits went to Fort William on Saturday to undergo tests for their suitability, and both fell at the first hurdle - the fitness test.  Since both are as fit as most of the existing members, and certainly of sufficient fitness to carry out the tasks required of the average fireman in a rural station, we wondered why they, and six others who presented themselves for the tests at Fort William, had failed.  Only one person passed the fitness test, and he faced several more tests.

The answer seems to be that fitness standards have been raised, in part due to the structural changes in Scotland's fire service, which is now a national, rather than a Highland service.  Fitness levels for retained rural firemen now have to be the same as for full-time recruits, say to a fire station in central Glasgow, population almost 600,000.

This is patently ridiculous.  Kilchoan, population just over 100 - and it has to be Kilchoan or locations close to it since firemen have to be able to respond within fifteen minutes to a callout - is highly unlikely to have eleven people who can reach the new fitness standard and are prepared to give the many hours to fulfill modern training requirements.

If the fire service insists on these standards in places like West Ardnamurchan then many, if not all rural stations will close.  If Kilchoan's were to close - which is a frightening thought - then the next nearest is Acharacle, some 40 minutes away, which is already stood down on many days due to.... you've guessed it.... recruitment problems; so we would be relying on Strontian, over an hour away.

This seems terribly like a back-door way of closing rural fire stations.  If it isn't, and incredibly high standards of fitness and intelligence really are needed, why don't they raise the standards even higher?  What about all firemen having to be able to run a mile in under four minutes, and have an IQ of 140+?  That way even Glasgow won't have any firemen.

Top picture: Kilchoan fire appliance at The Ferry Stores.
Bottom picture: Kilchoan fire station is the left hand building.


  1. I am not having a good day... then I read this and my blood pressure must have rocketed!

    To think that you have healthy volunteers turned down because they are nor superman is wicked.
    Surely local fire fighters (normal fitness guys)would be far superior to ones miles away.

    Good luck with this idiotic,stupid bureaucracy

    1. Everyone in the British army.. from highest ranks to lowest has to pass a series of Basic Fitness Tests each year. One can't help wondering if the people who proposed this stupidity for Scotland's rural fire services are up to the job any more...would they be capable of passing the basic fitness test standard they seek to enforce on their subordinates ?

  2. I agree when in a rural situation and relying on volunteers not just for the fire service, but coastguard and medical some rules have to be if not relaxed but changed to allow these willing volunteers to carry out essential services which our rural communities need to survive.


  3. You must be healthy, fit and able to carryout essential skills in the fire service no matter what part of the country you live in so we should be guided by those who are knowledgeable in this field and not jump to conclusions. It looks like we are once again in the press complaining about being hard done by living in this part of the country and causing alarm when no final decision on applicants has been made.

  4. Lorna in the lowlands12 November 2012 at 12:40

    Being practical, what could the firestation and the village do to increase fitness standards? I'm assuming you don't have access to a gym which would put you all at a disadvantage. Could a fit trail be built with obstacles, things to hook under your feet for sit ups and chin up bars? That way you'd have somewhere to train any time. One with a 50p in the metre light system for winter like I've seen at a tennis club? Could you even get lottery funding for it?

    Oh, and why don't you look to recruit a woman or two (gasp!). There might be the most suitable addition to your team and they haven't even considered it yet as you seem to have a bit of a boys club going.

    Anyhow, good luck and feel the burn!

  5. Hi Lorna. Gym equipment is available in the village, and is used by many of the firemen and the recruits. The fire team includes two women, both of whom have been in it for many years (one is deputy station officer), and the most recent person to leave the team (because she was leaving Kilchoan) was also a woman. Hence the need for new recruits. Jon

  6. Lorna in the lowlands15 November 2012 at 17:59

    Sorry for making the assumption, Jon. I'm so drilled in gender-neutral language these days when writing I leapt to the conclusion that it was all male.

    Best wishes in finding your replacements- if I was in the area, I'd certainly put myself forward.