Edward Cheshire, from Wolverley near Kidderminster, is proof that age is no barrier to becoming a first-time volunteer with Hereford & Worcester Fire and Rescue (HWFRS).
Following a successful career as a Business Manager 72 year-old Edward decided to retire in 2014. Although he had big plans to fill his time, including a six week tour of Australia and a Caribbean cruise, Edward soon realised he had additional time on his hands to become a volunteer.
Edward’s brother-in-law had been a full-time firefighter, serving with both West Midlands and Devon & Cornwall Fire Services, so when Edward saw an article in the local newspaper about volunteering with HWFRS he didn’t hesitate to pick up the phone and enquire. Following an interview and successful induction he soon found himself volunteering up to 15 hours a week.
The work of a volunteer can be very varied and is often shaped around the volunteer’s existing skill-set.
Edward said: “Throughout my career working as a Business Manager in sales I had delivered hundreds of presentations which my clients always responded to very positively. It was clear that this was a skill I could transfer to my volunteering work, and within my first year of volunteering I was delivering fire safety presentations to schools and the wider community.
"I love this part of the job, however other volunteers prefer to be involved in more practical training exercises - the opportunities are provided to get involved in whatever way you can.”
In 2015/16 Edward was awarded Volunteer of the Year, clocking up between 300-400 hours of volunteering time that year. In 2019 he attended 54 community events including Open Days and Firefighters Charity events.
Volunteering through HWFRS doesn’t just support the fire service, but also with the training of other emergency services.
Edward recalls: “Once we were role-playing casualties on a general service exercise when we were asked to head to Hereford General Hospital straight away to pretend to be factory workers involved in a simulated chemical spill.
"The staff at the hospital, except for the manager, were unaware that this was a training exercise so once we were sprayed with a fake chemical substance we entered the hospital reception and announced that we’d been involved in a chemical spill.
“We were ordered out of the reception, asked to go to the other side of the car park where tents had been immediately erected. We were sent to individual cubicles asked to strip off and be prepared to be washed from head to toe by the hospital staff. It was only then the staff were told it was a training exercise, but not before I volunteered to be the first one to de-robe!
“If you’ve ever thought about volunteering then I have no hesitation in recommending you do it with HWFRS. You’ll meet great friends and learn life-saving skills that will set you up for any fire related incident and beyond.”