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Full-time shop owner, part-time super hero

North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service calls out for more retained firefighters

Chris Lazenby juggles fighting fires with owning his own art gallery, photography and framing business

As a customer, there’s nothing more annoying than a shop owner losing interest half way through a conversation with you.

But customers at Lazenby Visuals in Helmsley have to be prepared to lose the attention of owner Chris Lazenby at a moment’s notice. But no one ever complains as, thankfully, it’s for a very worthwhile cause.

For whereas Chris’ first job is as owner and artist at Lazenby Visuals, based at Helmsley’s Walled Garden Craft Units, he also acts as a Retained Firefighter for the North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service, which is currently putting a call out for more ‘volunteer’ firecrew to help out across the North Yorkshire region.

Being a retained, on-call firefighter involves declaring what hours of the week you can be available, and agreeing to be (either at work or at home) no more than four miles from the fire station you’re serving. Firefighters are alerted to a call out through a pager and have to respond to the station within eight minutes. The salary depends on the number of hours you can provide, and full training is provided, with firecrew needing to attend a training evening once a week. Applicants need to be 18 years of age, but no specific qualifications are needed.

Chris Lazenby explains how he came to join the service: “I joined as a retained firefighter in 2013, when I was approached by another member. But I’d thought about joining for a long time, and even as a young child, I remember visiting my grandma’s local fire station which was crewed by, among others, the local milkman, a decorator and the mechanic from the local garage. Little did I know that I’d later be in the same situation!

“When I first joined, I was a student and it worked well, as when I was home studying, I could be on call. Now that I’m running Lazenby Visuals, I’m based in Helmsley most of the time both for work and at home. This means I can provide cover most days and nights. I have a notice as you walk through the door in the shop that politely warns people I am on duty and may have to rush out quickly. Thankfully we’re quite a quiet station so it doesn’t mean I have to close the studio very often.

But you never know when you will be needed, and it’s vital we have trained crew available at all times. In light of the recent events in London, my thoughts go out to the families involved and all the emergency services that attended.”

Members of the fire station are doing a charity car-wash outside the Black Swan Hotel in Helmsley on Sunday 25th June, from 12:00-15:00. All the funds raised will go to the Fire Fighters Charity, which helps injured fire fighters and their families

Christ continues: “It would be great if lots of people could come along to the charity car wash. It’s for a great cause, but also it’s a good opportunity to meet your local firefighters and for us to chat to people within the community. Although I might class myself as a newbie in Helmsley, having only lived here for six years, I feel really at home within the community, and being part of the retained firecrew has been a big part of that. The amalgamation of opening Lazenby Visuals, being a part of the Helmsley in Business group and also being involved with the fire brigade has meant I’ve met people across all walks of life – it’s a great combination!”

For more information about becoming a on call firefighter in your area, visit the recruitment section on www.northyorksfire.gov.uk. Alternatively contact recruitment officer Jon Wilson on 07817 485024.