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Moonlighting firefighters who have as many as four different jobs are potentially putting the public at risk, watchdog warns

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Firefighters are holding down as many as four different jobs – potentially putting the public at risk as they work too many hours, a watchdog has warned.

Almost one in four full-time staff in fire brigades across England have other work, HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMIC-FRS) found.

More than 5,000 firefighters have second jobs doing everything from modelling to pallbearing.

And thousands work ‘on call’ as well as being full-time as firefighters – meaning they can be woken up to respond to a blaze at night then have to return to the station just a few hours later for their day shift.

The regulator said bosses were failing to monitor the hours they put in or ensure they have proper rest periods between their different roles.

Firefighters are holding down as many as four different jobs – potentially putting the public at risk as they work too many hours, a watchdog has warned (pictured: a London firefighter who moonlights as a Gladiators referee on TV)

Firefighter Lee Phillips pictured (left) on the cast of Gladiators

Firefighter Lee Phillips pictured (left) on the cast of Gladiators

‘We found some staff who had up to four employment contracts and didn’t understand their responsibilities to update their employer or make sure they were fit to work.

‘This problem could lead to staff working excessive hours, potentially being unsafe to work and putting the public at risk,’ HMIC-FRS said in its latest State of Fire report.

The report found that 5,092 full-time firefighters in England – out of a total of 22,626 – had registered ‘secondary employment’ outside of fire and rescue at the end of March last year.

And 3,534 were on dual contracts, meaning they worked both as full-time and as on-call firefighters, mostly for the same brigade. ‘Too many services don’t effectively monitor secondary employment of their wholetime firefighters,’ the report found.

It said it had issued improvement notices to six services, one of which ‘wasn’t explicit about rest periods’ and another which had ‘no process to manage or monitor the hours they worked’.

Unlike most other employers, fire brigades make it easy for full-time staff to have second jobs on the side. They operate a four-on, four-off system with firefighters doing two day shifts followed by two night shifts, then four days off in a row.

Fire stations are equipped with beds, allowing those doing the night shift to rest unless they are called out.

According to Home Office statistics, crews fought 142,276 blazes in 2023 – down 19 per cent in a decade – out of a total of 592,996 incidents attended.

One source told the Mail: ‘Everyone knows they get away with this because they sleep all night, and go to work on a second job during the day. House fires have dropped dramatically, their staffing levels haven’t.’

Figures obtained by this newspaper under the Freedom of Information Act show that more than half of firefighters in South Yorkshire have second jobs (302 out of 582).

Lee Philips pictured on the cover of Men's Health in 2018

Lee Philips pictured on the cover of Men’s Health in 2018

Nearly half of London firefighters (47 per cent) have other jobs even though it bans work that leaves staff ‘not in a fit state, for example because of inadequate rest periods’ and tells them they must not do their second jobs at least 11 hours before their shifts begin. Other fire brigades employ moonlighting DJs, pallbearers, chimney sweeps and chefs.

Although their trade union claims they are forced to seek second jobs to make ends meet, they won a bumper pay deal last year after threatening strikes.

The basic salary for a fully trained firefighter now stands at £36,226 with another 4 per cent rise due this year.

From cover star …to Gladiators 

Full-time fireman Lee Phillips has managed to develop a series of careers on the side – including as a model, fitness instructor and TV personality.

Mr Phillips, who has worked in the fire service for 23 years, has held the ‘London’s Fittest Firefighter’ title for six years.

After he was asked to do fitness tests for the contestants in the new series of Gladiators, he ended up becoming one of the hit BBC gameshow’s referees.

His modelling career began after he was talent-spotted by an agency and he has since appeared on the cover of Men’s Health magazine 29 times.

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