Meet Peterborough’s volunteer fire heroes who help tackle the city’s biggest blazes

They are the heroes that run towards danger while others run away from it – when they are not at their desks as IT managers, postmen and prison officers.

Sunday, 19th May 2019, 7:00 am

The Peterborough Volunteer Fire Brigade is the only volunteer force in the country, with the 11 members of the tight-knit team mixing their day jobs with their crucial life saving role – and they don’t get paid a penny for their ‘second job.’

Members of the volunteers have helped at some of the biggest jobs in the city - from the fire at Peterborough Cathedral in 2001, the inferno at the Greyhound Stadium in 1999, and the recent blaze at Toys R Us site last month.

Now the team is looking for new recruits to join the brigade.

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Tony De Matteis with fir fighters Anthony Gould, Nick Cowley, Jake Benton, Will Baker, Josh Berrisford and David Carrington. EMN-190515-012258009

Chief Officer Tony De Matteis (57), who works as a prison officer in his day job, said being part of the brigade was important to him: “I am born and bred here in Peterborough, and for me it is about giving something back to the community.

“The guys I have here will do anything for you. We don’t get paid a penny, but we are all proud to be members of the brigade. We take great pride in going out, saving people’s lives and saving people’s property. It is one of the best feelings in the world when you are able to help someone, to save people’s property.

At the moment, all the 11 members of the team are men, but Tony said anyone was welcome to apply as long as they are fit enough.

He said: “We are all men at the moment, but we have had two women in the past.

Firefighter Jake Benton EMN-190515-012321009

“We are from a range of backgrounds. We have a postman, a caretaker, an IT manager. I am the oldest at 57, and our youngest member is 22– but we are like one big family. The comradeship is incredible.

“Not everyone can do it and especially for free. It is becoming harder and harder as more pressure is put on people’s day job. But it is incredibly rewarding.”

While the Volunteer Brigade is separate from Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service, the two organisations work very closely together and all recruits have to go through the same training processes.

Tony, who has been with the Volunteer Brigade for 35 years, said: “It is a tough recruitment process. There are medicals, fitness tests and interviews, it is quite a process.
“There is then a two-year probation period.

“We work with Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service on the recruitment, and they have also supplied our fire engine, our equipment, and even the calls we get. It is a very close relationship.”

Training takes place at the crew’s station on Bourges Boulevard every Tuesday evening, and it is a constant learning process even for those who have been on the team for several years.

Once signed up to the brigade, the team know they can be called out at almost any moment.

Tony said: “We all carry a bleeper, and we are on call an nights and 24 hours a day at weekends. It is very much a second job.

“We need our family, our partners on our side. When we get the call we will just disappear. It is tough for them too, but we all get a lot of support. We couldn’t do it without them.”

For more information about signing up to the Volunteer Brigade, visit www.cambsfire.gov.uk.

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