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Meet Reepham's firecrew heroes

PUBLISHED: 15:50 09 April 2009 | UPDATED: 15:10 07 July 2010

There are few professions which bring together a postmaster, builder, pharmacist, oil heating engineer and sports centre manager.

However, Reepham's retained fire crew contain all four and more.

There are few professions which bring together a postmaster, builder, pharmacist, oil heating engineer and sports centre manager.

However, Reepham's retained fire crew contain all four and more.

The 12-strong crew are on call for fires, crashes and other incidents seven days per week - on top of their usual day jobs.

For watch manager Phil Leeder, known as Taffy by the crew due to his Welsh accent, it's a job he has never looked back on taking up when he left the Navy in the 1970s.

He joined the retained fire service after 29 years as a full time fire fighter, ending up as station manager at Fakenham fire station, in charge of seven retained stations.

He is now a self employed fire consultant, running the retained station and weekly training on Tuesday nights in his spare time.

Asked why people join retained fire crews he said: “It is like why people join lifeboat crews. It the fun and excitement and being part of a team.

“You get tragedies, as you can imagine, but the successes outweigh the tragedies and there is a real sense of achievement.”

Although the team is currently up to 12 members, retained fire crews in rural Norfolk do struggle to cover their patches 24 hours a day.

Because people often work away from where they live they are not able to get to call outs during daytime working hours and one problem is that crews are not allowed out with fewer than four members.

However, last Tuesday the crew gained a new recruit, local oil heating engineer Stuart Leathers.

After seven weeks of training he will go on to do a two week course at Bowthorpe.

Graham Jackets is another recent recruit - he carried out his 18-month probation test last week. His day job is being a manager for a national building company.

Reepham's crew managers are Doug Johnson - Reepham's postmaster - and Jeremy Cleall, known as Jed.

Jed's day job is as a watch manager at Norwich International airport, where Karl Hendry, known as big Karl, another of Reepham's crew also works.

Little Carl, or Carl Musgrave, works at Bayer Crop Science in Norwich where is also mans a fire crew for the site.

The crew also has two women, Clare London, a senior clinical trial technician at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, and Christine Davison, sports centre manager at the Old Brewery House hotel in Reepham.

Others include Andy Betts, a mechanical engineer at Hunts, Mark Pearson, a fire fighter at RAF Mildenhall, and Roger McDowall who works for Dereham piling firm Van Elle.

Tuesday nights are training nights at the station, where the crew learns about the fire engine, its equipment and how to use it safely.

Their most common call outs are fires and road crashes, so they have to learn how to use hydraulic cutting equipment too.

On top of that the crew attends charity events, runs courses for local scouts to pick up new badges and go up to the high school to help teach science classes.

If you are interested in joining a retained fire crew go to www.norfolkfireservice.gov.uk .

Watch manager Leader said the worst culprit for fires is naked flames - these days usually candles not lit in a safe place or in a safe holder.

Chimney fires are a problem during the winter and electrical equipment left on or their wires caught up near something combustable is also a common cause of fires, he said.

“All you can ask is for people to be sensible and have an escape plan from their home. Elderly and vulnerable people can ring us and arrange a free home risk assessment. We also fit free smoke alarms.”

Contact 01603 810351 for an assessment.

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