A VILLAGE firefighter is urging his neighbours to help protect their community.

Stephen Challis has spent the past 50 years living in rural Colmonell, with a population of around 200 people.

Council worker Stephen, 58, has spent the last 24 years serving his neighbours as a retained firefighter, responding to emergencies via an on call pager system.

And he is calling on others from every walk of life to follow in his footsteps, with the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service particularly keen to welcome more women, ethnic and LGBT+ communities.

Stephen said: “When we attend at incidents there is a chance we’ll know the people involved.

“My first road traffic collision was actually responding to an accident involving one of my friends.

“Thankfully he recovered and joined the retained service years later.”

He added: “It can be very personal and intimate work and that is why it is important for us to work as part of a close and supportive team.

“The local community feel you are part of them – their fire service.

“We really enjoy engaging wherever possible and with people of all ages to show them how to stay safe.”

Seven years ago, the Colmonell crew was boosted by the arrival of Stephen’s son Mark.

Stephen said: “When Mark first started there were extra nerves when he was going up a ladder or out to an incident, but you get used to it.

“Both of us are in the same job, facing the same risks.

“I think the fire service runs through families. There are quite a few parents and children who serve.”

“I grew up in the village – I’ve been here since 1970.

“But these days people travel out with the village to find work – many of the farms and estates don’t employ as many people.

“It’s difficult to beat being there for your community.”

For more information on what it takes to become a retained firefighter visit: www.firescotland.gov.uk/work-with-us/retained-firefighters.aspx