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Ellie Taylor & Anna Whitehouse 10pm - 1am
20 June 2011, 05:00
Heart's been given an exclusive look at plans to deal with the shortage of retained firefighters in part of the Thames Valley.
It's after we got hold of figures showing almost half of fire stations in Berkshire, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire are staffed entirely by retained crews, with almost all of them needing more people.
Berkshire Fire and Rescue are now setting up a special unit - with money already approved in their February budget.
The plan is to take 12 crew and watch managers from existing personnel and base them at the stations in Ascot and Newbury. They'll then be sent out to provide cover at stations short on staff.
It's hoped the unit will be up and running by October.
From January onwards the service will then look at new ways of increasing the number of part-time firefighters.
They hope by changing the amount of time people need to commit might encourage different types of people to apply.
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Paul Maynard from Berkshire Fire and Rescue says "We are looking at things we have never ever done on this brigade before. If a mum drops the kids off at school and is available between 10 past 9 and three o' clock and if she can give that cover - then that's the type of stuff we'll be looking at."
They're also considering relaxing the rule that people need to live about five minutes from the station. In more remote areas where they are struggling to recruit this could be increased to open it up to people who live a little further away.
The 12 firefighters in the special unit will be used to actively recruit people and Mr Maynard says if they're successful - they may even do away with the unit.