Everyone at our Pwllheli store is so proud of their colleague Neil Shilvock, who combines his job at Asda with working as an on-call firefighter for North Wales Fire and Rescue Service.
The store supports Neil so he can leave straight away if he's needed by the fire service – like this week when he was called out to deal with a major gorse and bracken fire in hills above the town.
Thirty-three-year-old Neil has been a retained firefighter since 2008 – following in the footsteps of his father David who has served at Pwllheli fire station for 33 years.
Neil said: "The fire service drops us alerts when we are needed and we just turn in. If I'm at work I clock off and make my way down to the fire station. It's an agreement I've had with every manager that's been here. I go, and then when I'm done, I come back and clock in.
"We have two appliances and 13 firefighters and for the past two years I've been temporary crew manager. We get between 10 to 15 call-outs a month and they all vary.
"I've done all the courses so I can drive the engine out now. Every kid wants to drive a fire engine, don't they?"
Neil, who's bakery section leader, said: "I enjoy both my roles. They are both completely different but what I love about it is that I can be out on a call all night – a very serious one – and I come back to work and no-one knows what I've done. I'm just the guy who puts the bread on the shelves."
He said it had been a challenge tacking the moorland blaze at Pen Garn which is 240m from the roadside but his team, helped by other units from North Wales, had managed to get it under control.
The Asda Foundation and local companies donated drinks and refreshments to the fire crews at the scene.
Neil, who's worked for Asda for 14 years, said: "It was very hot work out there. My trousers were glued onto me by the end of the day!"
The store's community champion Jo Scott said: "I cannot tell you how proud we all are of the hard-working firefighters and of our section leader Neil.
"He worked from 1am Saturday morning then came into work to do his day shift, making sure his team was okay. The fire continued so he went back to help. I don't think any of the fire service people have had any sleep for the past three days and Neil's at work again with a laugh and a smile for us all.
"He's a lovely lad. I've known him for years since he was 16. He's kind, funny, caring and so much fun to work with."
Jo managed to secure an emergency grant from the Asda Foundation so the store could donate energy drinks, soft drinks and water to the firefighters and emergency crews fighting the Pen Garn fire.
Store manager Gail Taylor said: "We are so proud of all the firefighters who have been working tirelessly to stop the fire and we are especially proud of Neil, who as well as a firefighter, is a great team leader in our store.
"We were also happy to donate cold drinks for everyone. Thank you to everyone involved for all that you do for our community and thank you to the Asda Foundation for your support."
Paul Jenkinson, senior operations manager at North Wales Fire and Rescue Service, says the support of companies like Asda makes a huge difference to their operations.
He said: “Our on-call firefighters are a vital part of our fire and rescue service, providing an effective and efficient service. Many of our fire stations operate on an on-call basis, often referred to as the Retained Duty System.
“On-call firefighters come from all areas of the community, and often have other employment. When a call is received they respond to the fire station from their home or workplace. It is difficult to predict when they will be called out and so on-call firefighters need the ability to be flexible in their work or home-based activities.
“We rely greatly on local employers like Asda who support their community by talking to their staff about the role of an on-call firefighter, and agree to releasing staff from work within pre-agreed days and times, to respond to emergency calls. Without this support many of our on-call firefighters would not be able to respond as required.
“Yes, the on-call firefighter role is demanding and unpredictable but it is also exciting and rewarding, coupled with the satisfaction and respect that comes with providing a crucial service to your local community.
“It you are interested in undertaking a firefighting role like Neil’s and supporting your local community, we would be keen to hear from you – particularly if you live in a rural location within five minutes of a fire station."
Information for anyone interested is available here: www.northwalesfire.gov.wales
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