Will: “I was facing potentially having nowhere to live – the charity was a lifeline”

Will Raeper, an on-call firefighter with North Yorkshire FRS, received our support when a serious injury meant he faced months off work from his day job, with a dramatic cut to his income.

When on-call firefighter Will Raeper was involved in a road collision while riding a motorcycle on duty last year, it led to months off work, a dramatic cut to his income and a long period of isolation.

Will works as a Merchant Seafarer in his main job and sadly, when he had the accident, he’d been in the role for less than six months – which meant he didn’t receive any sick pay for three months after his accident.

Having heard about the support we offer, through his on-call role with North Yorkshire FRS, Will called us and we were able to offer financial assistance at a point when he was struggling to make ends meet. We also went on to offer him physiotherapy support during his recovery.

Will, who’s based at Bentham Fire Station, now hopes to raise awareness of the support on offer to other on-call firefighters like himself, who may be unaware of what’s available to them.

“I’d never considered that I’d end up needing support myself,” says Will. “We’d done some fundraisers as a station previously, but I didn’t realise how much the Charity offered until I got in touch myself.

“We have a motorcycle road safety project in North Yorkshire, ‘Fire Bike’, with a team of fire service personnel, all volunteers, riding fire service motorcycles to events to engage and educate bikers – helping to reduce injuries within the group of road users who are known to be at considerably higher risk on the roads. We promote Biker Down, Advanced Riding Schemes and Motorcycle Road Safety.

“I was actually riding the fire service motorcycle to a motorcycle event in July 2023 when I was involved in a collision. I unfortunately then became an injury statistic for what we’re actually trying to prevent.

“I ended up with an open femur fracture to my left leg and was in hospital for five days. I was taken to surgery that morning and had a big metal plate and about 10 screws put in my leg.”

He adds: “I was told the recovery would be several months and to be honest, it’s been pretty horrific, especially when I was holed up at home and not even able to get out of bed for the first couple of weeks.

“The crew from my fire station actually came round and helped me, bringing me sandwiches and things, which was great.”

Facing months off work, Will’s salary from his main job was slashed as he wasn’t entitled to sick pay at the time, which meant he only had his on-call firefighting pay to live on for three months.

“It’s put me back well over 12 months with everything really,” he says. “Straight away my salary stopped with my primary job. I’d moved my role five months before.

“I have the My Fire Fighters Charity app and the first thing I did was get in touch through that to see if there was anything the Welfare team could do to support me. I was facing not being able to pay my bills and potentially having nowhere to live.

“I was offered three separate payments to cover my bills until I was able to get my salary again. I felt really embarrassed at first, but actually it was my only option – and it was a lifeline.

“I couldn’t walk or do anything at the time, plus I live alone, so it was incredibly difficult. Having the worry of not being able to pay my bills was huge, and the Charity helped alleviate that.”

Will went on to enquire about any physical health support he may be able to access, and was offered a week’s stay at Jubilee House, our centre in Cumbria, when he was starting to walk again.

“The group of people I was with were great,” he says. “I’d spent five months or so stuck at home, unable to ride my motorbike, so it was that social side that massively helped me.

“Being with people in a similar situation, you really gel. I didn’t want to leave by the end of the week!

“I was able to continue all the exercises when I got home and I’m now back riding motorbikes and back on restricted duties with the fire service, looking to get back on the run ASAP.”

Will adds: “I’m really trying to spread the word now, particularly around on-call firefighters who hadn’t realised the Charity offered this level of support – particularly financially.

“We also do regular fundraisers and they have a new level of meaning for us now. One of us has been a bit broken and we’ve seen how that money can make a difference.”

Will is now planning a fundraiser this summer which will see him take on a charity motorbike ride across North Yorkshire to visit all 38 North Yorkshire Fire & Rescue stations. You can donate to his fundraiser here.

Area Manager Ben Illsley, from North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service, said: “As a Service, we did what we could to support Will, including providing a dedicated welfare officer to help him during his recovery. The additional support the charity was able to provide has been fantastic and showcases why we feel it’s so important that we all do what we can to raise funds for them.”

If you feel you’d benefit from our health and wellbeing support, you can call our Support Line on 0800 389 8820, make an enquiry online or visit the ‘Access Support’ tab in My Fire Fighters Charity.

And remember – if you’re feeling suicidal, you can call our Crisis Line 24 hours a day on 0300 373 0896.