By Monica Gibson

A FORMER newsagent has told how he made a life-changing decision thanks to his customers – a crew of firefighters.

Mani Dhesi left the shop counter to join the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) after being inspired by their accounts of protecting the public.

Based at Barrhead Fire Station, the father-of-two is now playing a vital role in bringing the service closer to the community.

Mani, 47, spoke to the Barrhead News about his inspiration as the SFRS prepares to launch a recruitment campaign on November 30.

He said: “My family used to own some stores around the Springburn area of Glasgow and I was working in one directly across the road from Springburn Community Fire Station.

“I knew the guys in there well because, every day, I was seeing them, hearing their stories and watching them head out on shouts.

“Slowly, and with their encouragement, I began to realise that being a firefighter was what I wanted to do. As soon as the stores were sold or rented, I signed straight up.”

Mani, who is now a watch manager with the SFRS, added: “It was strange later on as I would see these guys after joining the service – and, in some cases, even be their gaffer.”

The keen rugby fan also revealed his pride in being a role model, working as a coach for local youth teams.

Mani, who is married to 42-year-old Asia and dad to Arron and Zac, is a practicing Sikh who speaks fluent Punjabi, Hindi and Urdu.

He said: “My family is originally from India and my grandfather fought for the British Army.

“One of the main things I enjoy is being able to bring the SFRS community and the Sikh and Indian communities together.

“When we organise events, we are seeing more and more Sikh representation from all the emergency services and the British army as well as the SFRS – it’s fantastic.

“Youngsters might not have known who to contact or had the confidence to speak to us but we are going to them and I am proud to be able to do this and be a positive role model in the community.

“I aim to break down language barriers and promote our safety messages too.”

Mani is now hoping others will follow in his footsteps.

He said: “The best thing I could say to someone is to come and speak to us – you see people open up after a quick chat and they begin to realise that becoming a firefighter really is something that they could accomplish.”

To find out how to apply, visit