Retained Falkirk firefighter calls time on 17-year role
A long-serving retained firefighter who spent 17 years at Falkirk Fire Station has brought an end to his time in the role.
Allan Hardy, 50, left his post this week after securing a new job as the head of risk and resilience at The State Hospital in Carstairs.
In a career which also saw him work within the prison service for 28 years, Allan has chosen to finish up both his prison and part-time firefighting work to spend more time with his family.
A ceremony was held at Falkirk Fire Station on Tuesday as the dad-of-two said goodbye to colleagues and a job packed full of adrenaline, which he says he’ll miss dearly.
Over the years, on-call fireman Allan worked his way up to become a crew commander and a temporary watch commander.
Originally from Bainsford, he spent all of his Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) days in the Falkirk area.
The thrill of not knowing what type of incident he was being called out to while on shift, coupled with the challenge of thinking on his feet, are the two facets of the job he’ll miss the most.
However, Allan is now looking to make the most of the free time his job swap will afford him and plans to spend much of it with wife Michelle and sons Jordan, 23 and ten-year-old Lewis.
Having purchased a motor home, the Redding resident is also eyeing up his fair share of road trips.
The time may have come for Allan to depart from the SFRS’ retained system, however, he would be the first to recommend a career as either a part-time or full-time firefighter.
Looking back on what made him consider joining the fire service all those years ago, he told The Falkirk Herald: “I’ve always been one who enjoys the adrenaline rush, I suppose.
“From a prison perspective, I’ve always had incidents to deal with and the fire service is exactly the same.
“You don’t know what you’re going to. It makes you think, and think about how you’re going to deal with it.
“The retained service is a fantastic opportunity – it’s an opportunity to keep your own work and it’s definitely something I would recommend to someone.
“It’s hard – my sons have grown up with me working most nights and weekends. It’s a lot of change for a family but it’s a very worthwhile career.”
Much like most jobs in the emergency services, Allan has responded to a mix of situations where the outcome hasn’t gone the way anyone would’ve hoped for.
On the other hand, the role also provided him with hugely rewarding moments where those at risk were carried to safety.
The natural camaraderie such incidents foster among colleagues is difficult to replicate in other professions, of that Allan has no doubt.
That is why he regards the job as a vocation and would urge those seeking something new to apply for a role in the SFRS.
He said: “Some moments have been good and some have been bad; I’ve dealt with deaths and fatalities and there have been good events where people have been saved.
“Every incident has a challenge, it just depends on what you’re going to.
“When the pager goes, you don’t know what you’re going into – you could be driving into a false alarm, you just don’t know what it is until you get there.
“I was 28 years with the prison service and I was doing that and the fire service part-time.
“I’ve moved to a new role and it’s time for me to get my work-life balance back together. I’m now the head of risk and resilience at The State Hospital for the NHS.
“The change was chance. The reason I resigned from the fire service was to get some family life balance back.
“It’s hard and a big commitment. I was always part-time with the fire service. It was a retained duty system. I would work a 40-hour week and be expected to commit to 80 hours’ service a week part-time – you needed to be available.
“I’ve enjoyed every minute of it but it’s time for me to leave, mentally and physically.”
New laws which came into effect during Allan’s 17-year SFRS career resulted in “significant” alterations in his and his fellow firefighters’ day-to-day responsibilities.
What has not changed, though, is the backing his loved ones have given to him throughout that time.
Allan explained: “There have been some significant changes.
“Legislation has changed a lot of the way the fire service operates. Fires are going down now so it’s a lot less firefighting and more special services, like dealing with people trapped in houses and bariatric patients.
“My family and friends have supported me and sacrificed a lot for me to do what I want to do, like looking after the children so I can stay on a run.”
He added: “I just want my colleagues to stay safe.
“It’s a risky and tough job and I appreciate what they do.
“The retained fire service – those that work hard during the day then provide cover to the community in their own free time – I take my hat off to everybody who’s done it and wish them all well.
“For anyone thinking about joining, it’s definitely a great career. If you enjoy it, move into the full-time service because supporting the community is great.”