The last two weeks have been the most testing time yet for Paul Farman in his three years as a retained firefighter.
Along with hundreds of colleagues from Lancashire Fire and Rescue, he has turned out at all hours of the day and night to tackle a moorland blaze at Winter Hill, near Chorley, which has been labelled ‘the biggest natural disaster for decades’.
Along with that, he and his colleagues from Lytham fire station have been on hand to tackle local incidents, including the grass fires last weekend that ravaged Lytham Green and the nature reserve on the dunes at St Annes.
His dedication – backed by the essential understanding of his family and employers – have come in for glowing praise from his bosses and is the perfect illustration of just how determined volunteer fighters such as he are to serve the community.
Paul is the fireman who was pictured on Lytham Club Day weekend attending a hay barn fire with a haircut half done because he had to leave the barber’s chair as soon as the call came.
But the six hours spent at that incident were just a hint of things to come as a major blaze on Saddleworth Moor, east of Manchester, was swiftly followed by the Winter Hill fire – which it has been speculated could go on for at least another week yet.
After being called out initially to help at Saddleworth, the Lytham crew were diverted to Winter Hill and have joined colleagues from across the Fylde coast in dealing with that blaze since, working in shifts round the clock that can last for anything up to 12 hours and even beyond.
With such dedication to duty, it is difficult to believe that Paul – and all his colleagues at Lytham – are volunteers, with full-time jobs such as his as an estate agency sales negotiator.
Paul, 49, came into firefighting at 46 because he wanted to do his bit for the community.
He had been looking at becoming an RNLI lifeboat crew volunteer but wasn’t sure whether he would be taken on at the age he was.
“I was still pondering the situation when I walked past Lytham fire station one day and saw a sign asking for retained firefighters,” he said.
“I went inside and asked and I have been here ever since. It is so rewarding.
“It’s not just about fire, we get called out to all kinds of incidents.
“The last couple of weeks have certainly been the busiest of my time here but the incidents we have covered have shown just how much the community needs us and that is what it is all about – serving the community.
“And in turn, the community reaction to our efforts over the recent days has been wonderful, with their donations of bottles of water and other items. It is lovely to see how much people care and it is all very much appreciated.”
Paul is on a 120-hour retained contract at Lytham fire station, which means he is on call at all times, apart from Thursday evenings and alternate Saturday evenings.
The Winter Hill fire in particular has meant long periods out of work at John Ardern estate agency in Lytham, but Paul is grateful to his employers for their flexibility and to wife Melanie and 12-year-old daughter Annabelle for their understanding.
“I really couldn’t do it with out them,” he said.
Crew manager Fraser Smith added: “Credit to Paul for his dedication and his employers have been brilliant.”
A second man was arrested on suspicion of arson in connection with the fire on Friday. A 20-year-old, from Wigan, was released under investigation.
A 22-year-old man from Bolton had previously been arrested for the same offence and also later released under investigation.