There has been an alarming shortage of firefighters in the South Hams, with Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service looking for new on-call firefighters who are interested in joining fire stations in various local areas.

Both Dartmouth and Modbury fire stations are recruiting for new members. Dartmouth is looking for six members to join, and Modbury are recruiting five. 

A spokesperson for Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service said: “There a number of factors for the shortages which include people having to work further away from where they live and extended family, and possibly a lack of affordable housing in some areas. All our fire stations in the South Hams are recruiting but it’s difficult to say exactly how many people that is because it depends on how many hours of cover they can offer us.

“We’d like to reassure people that we will always respond as quickly as possible in the event of an emergency. If the nearest fire engine is not available, the next nearest will be sent. If cover is low in a particular area, we move fire engines or wholetime firefighters into that area to ensure there is sufficient cover across Devon and Somerset.”

On-call firefighters do the same emergency work as full-time firefighters, but they can also have other jobs too or be at home. While on duty, they carry a pager, which activates when they need to attend an incident. On-call firefighters are paid and newly introduced contracts mean there is more flexibility on the hours of service. 

There is a list of essential criteria and information about firefighters strength tests on the service’s website.

Applicants can also visit the fire station on their weekly training nights on Tuesdays at 7pm.

Spokesperson Paul Slaven, of Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service, said: “In the past, some people found it hard to commit to the time we were expecting them to be available to us without being paid specifically for that time. This new scheme provides a great deal of flexibility and an enhanced work-life balance, allowing you to agree the hours that you will work above the minimum requirement.”

If a town’s fire crew are not available due to a lack of available firefighters, another team may have to come from the next nearest fire station.

Jonathan Hawkins, Dartmouth town councillor, said: “I would appeal to the Devon and Somerset Fire brigade to continue to do all they can to prompt the retained fire officers

“In particular the designated area to extend the current five-minute limit to further afield to ensure rural towns like ours have a full compliment of officers.

“It has to be better for an appliance to go out from a Dartmouth station than to have to wait from one Kingsbridge or Totnes or even further afield. Time is vital to save lives and properties.”