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Otley on-call firefighter celebrates 20 years service

An on-call firefighter has been rewarded for his dedication after spending 20 years protecting his local community. James Utley (pictured below, right with the Lord Lieutenant) has now worked at Otley Fire Station for two decades – following in his father’s footsteps, who worked as a firefighter for 23 years and his brother-in-law who served over 30 years- both at Otley!

James’ primary role is as a print finisher in Otley for William Sinclair and Sons, where he has worked for 28 years. The Sinclair business has supported him through his career as a firefighter and his boss is happy to release him from his daily work if he receives an emergency call-out. The company’s management is also very supportive of the community and even allows West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service (WYFRS) to use some of its premises as training locations.

James said: “I’m so proud to be able to serve my community. I offer the maximum amount of hours I can as an on-call firefighter, which is 120 per week, as I hate the thought of someone being in difficulty and me being sat at home on my bum! When I first started out the extra money was helpful too, especially after having my daughter, Amelia, but it’s just part of all our lives now – in fact I’m hoping to make it to 30 years’ service!”

Being a firefighter in a location like Otley means James has seen a variety of incidents that some firefighters located in more urban areas don’t always see. Chimney fires from open fires are quite common; he’s also been to mill building fires and most recently was part of the district wide crew attending the Ilkley moor wildfires.

On Saturday James attended WYFRS’s Long Service Awards, which was a ceremony at Fire Service Headquarters, in Birkenshaw. He was awarded the Fire Brigade Long Service and Good Conduct Medal, which is only granted to firefighters and control room staff who have completed 20 years of exceptional service.

James said: “My mum, wife and Amelia were there on Saturday watching me get my award for the 20 years’ service, and it was such a great day. In fact Amelia enjoyed it so much she even said she might fancy joining the service – which obviously I’d support her in. To anyone thinking of applying I’d say do it – it’s a brilliant role and that’s what’s kept me here for the last 20 years.”

James’s Watch Commander Martin Bleasdale was there on Saturday to see James receive his award- after working with him for 15 years at Otley.

Martin said: “James has been a fantastic firefighter for 20 years, he’s a pleasure to work with and brings a lot of knowledge and experience to the team.  He’s also been instrumental in assisting trainee firefighters with their training on station when they begin in the role.”

“On-call firefighters are so vital to help us in keeping the community safe, so as well as rewarding James for his service I’d also like to thank his family and his employer, William Sinclair and Sons. We are grateful for their understanding and flexibility in allowing James to work with us.”

If you want to be an on-call firefighter and help protect your community like James then visit – we’re recruiting at several stations across West Yorkshire including Otley, Ilkley and Skipton.


Location – Live and/or work within one mile of the fire station you wish to work at, or be able to get there within five minutes of receiving an emergency call, travelling at normal road speed. You could also run, walk or cycle if this is easier.

About you – Be 18 or over on commencement of employment, and eligible to work in the UK. Be physically well, including good eyesight with higher than average levels of strength, endurance and aerobic fitness. Hold literacy and numeracy Level 2 qualifications.  Have a full UK driving licence.

Commitments – The minimum commitment is usually 50 hours a week, but still get in touch for a chat with us if you think you can offer less. You will also attend training drills once a week at your local station.