Pets the focus of new fire safety campaign

Stop putting your animals at risk – that’s the message from firefighters, and a number of special guests,  as they launch a new safety campaign aiming to drive down electrical fires across South Yorkshire.

Figures released by South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue today, to coincide with Black Friday, show there have been more than 350 electrical house fires in the county over the last three years.

Data also shows that crews have attended over 76 house fires in the last three years where pets were involved – highlighting that it isn’t just humans who can be affected by fire.

With most of these incidents being described by fire officers as easily preventable – the service has joined forces with a number of local ‘celebs’ to produce a series of online videos that highlight some of the everyday electrical fire risks in the home.

Sheffield Lord Mayor Magid Magid joins Pete McKee, Radio Sheffield’s Sam Cleasby and her husband, and former Arctic Monkeys tour manager, Timm Cleasby, in the series – with the first of which being launched today on social media.

The launch of these videos will also be followed by a range of stalls and educational talks across the county – with people across South Yorkshire urged to act on the three pieces of advice being given out by the fire service.

Area Manager Steve Helps, head of the joint police and fire community safety department, said: “When you leave the house in a morning, with the washing machine on and various electrical devices on charge, do you ever think about how your dog, or maybe your rabbit, would escape in the event of a fire? How about your fish, or budgie?

“Anybody who has a pet knows that they are part of the family but they are often overlooked when it comes to escaping in an emergency – with fire as a prime example. We know people are busy and don’t want to ask too much, so we’ve pulled out three simple things that people can do to keep their animal friends safer.

“Most of our electrical fires could have been easily prevented and the most common causes are things like leaving electrical appliances (like washing machines and tumble dryers) on overnight and when people are out, as well as overloading plug sockets.

“Buying ‘knock-off’ electrical equipment, which does not meet safety standards is also something we strongly discourage, as it can be prone to malfunctioning and starting fires. A good rule of thumb is that if it sounds too cheap to be true, it probably is.”

The service’s three top tips to safeguard your pets from electrical fires are:

  • Don’t leave appliances on, and devices charging, at night and when you’re out of the house – to eliminate the risk of these malfunctioning and catching fire.
  • Buy electrical equipment which is genuine and from trusted sources – ‘knock off’ phone chargers and batteries are prone to setting on fire.
  • Don’t overload plug sockets – exceeding the advised current rating (13 amps) can cause them to overheat and catch fire.

Earlier this month firefighters from Central and Lowedges were called to reports of a fire on Reney Road, Sheffield. Upon arrival they found a dog trapped inside a heavily smoke logged flat after a toaster had completely melted.

A different incident, which took place a year ago on Princess Street, Doncaster, saw two dogs trapped in their smoke-filled house during a kitchen fire. They had a lucky escape that day but their owner, Shaleen Ross, said it could have been much worse.

“When you leave the house you don’t think about what might happen when you’re out, especially to your pets,” she added.

“Fortunately the dogs found an air pocket, they got lucky, but we still had to move out of the house for three months as they kitchen was destroyed and there was smoke damage to other areas of the house. It was six weeks before Christmas too.

“Our smoke alarms did activate and were going off for a while, but nobody noticed. All I would say is be careful and make sure things are switched off before you leave the house, especially when you’ve got pets who aren’t able to get themselves out.”

More recently, on Sunday 17 November, crews from Doncaster and Edlington attended a house fire on Anchorage Lane, in Sprotbrough, which was caused by a faulty washing machine that had been left on overnight.

Following the fire, Watch Manager Gary Ridgeway, who was the incident commander on the night, has called for people to make sure washing machines, tumble dryers, dishwashers and other electrical appliances are switched off overnight.

He said: “This incident started after the occupant got in at night and turned the washing machine on before he went to bed. There was a fault in the washing machine which started the fire, filled the kitchen with smoke and caused a significant amount of damage to the property.

“At 2am in the morning, the two people who lived at the house would have had nowhere to go, had it not have been for their neighbours. Fortunately the smoke alarms sounded and they were able to get out, so the outcome wasn’t too bad.

“This is a serious issue for us, though. People think that putting the washer on overnight will be cheaper and save time. It may do, in some cases, but you have to think about the risk and what could happen if there’s a fault and you’re not there to react quickly.

“I would say it’s just not worth it, the cost of some electricity and time is nothing compared to the lasting damage that comes with a fire – be it injury to you, your family or a pet, a kitchen that is completely destroyed or something far worse.”

Joint procurement venture saves fire services thousands

Fire and rescue services in South and West Yorkshire have saved the taxpayer thousands of pounds by working together to buy new rescue equipment to deal with road traffic collisions.

A contract of nearly £1.25 million has been awarded to Weber Rescue UK for the supply of new battery powered cutting equipment to South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue and West Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Service.

The joint procurement has saved both services time and money- but leaders say it will also make training and maintenance more efficient in the future.

A project team at South Yorkshire led on the process of procuring the equipment whilst team members at West Yorkshire directed the research and development phase of the project.

The specialist cutting gear is to be used primarily at road traffic collisions to safely remove casualties from vehicles. The new equipment will replace old cutting gear within each service and by January 2019, it is expected that all appliances at both services will be modified to include the new battery powered rescue equipment.

Having a standardised provision in cutting gear across both services will ensure that rescue equipment is compatible when crews attend over-the-border incidents. All firefighters at both services will be trained in using the equipment, enabling more efficient and effective working between the two services at incidents within each county.

The new pieces of equipment also bring operational benefits such as an improved cutting force and a longer run time helping to reduce the time to gain access to people who are trapped and injured.

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Chief Fire Officer James Courtney, said: “This is a great investment in standardising operational equipment and will undoubtedly improve our response to rescue incidents. By collaborating on projects such as this with our neighbouring services presents us with a great opportunity to provide a more effective and efficient service to the people we serve.”

West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service Chief Fire Officer John Roberts, said: “We are continually looking at how we can work closely with our partners and neighbouring Fire and Rescue Services. This is a great example of how this approach can work to everyone’s advantage, saving the taxpayer money, reducing the time and effort spent on research and ensuring that when we do respond to emergencies we can work more closely than ever by virtue of carrying identical equipment.”

Minister for Policing and the Fire Service Nick Hurd, said “This kind of collaboration is great to see and the results are clear – it saves time for firefighters and saves money for taxpayers.

“We have been clear that joint working between fire and rescue services on procurement makes economic and operational sense. It can drive down prices and improves the service they provide for the public.”

“I commend the fire chiefs in South Yorkshire and West Yorkshire for this project, and hope that this kind of closer working will become more widespread across our fire and rescue services.”

The joint procurement project comes following the publication of procurement data information in 2016 by the Home Office. The report found that fire and rescue services were paying similar prices for equipment but purchasing separately, despite financial and operational benefits of buying together.

Fire and rescues services in the UK are now being encouraged to do more collaboratively to drive down the amount spent on essential goods such as frontline equipment and workwear.

The Policing & Crime Act 2017 also received Royal Assent on 31 January last year, placing a new statutory duty on emergency services to look at opportunities to work with one another better to improve efficiency and effectiveness.

Service thanks public for support during bonfire period

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue is thanking people across the county today (Monday 12 November) for their support during the bonfire period – with fireworks now being off general sale.

Crews from across the county dealt with the same amount of overall incidents on bonfire night this year than last – but saw a 16 per cent reduction in the number of ‘secondary fires’ they were called to during the course of the evening.

Preventing secondary fires, which include things such as deliberate rubbish and bin fires, as well as out of control bonfires, was a key focus of the service’s work during Operation Dark Nights.

The joint annual initiative, which was launched last month in partnership with South Yorkshire Police, saw officers from both organisations visiting schools across the county to talk about a range of things including peer pressure, the dangers of playing with fire and misusing fireworks.

It also saw parents urged to talk to their children about these dangers and the potential consequences of carelessness and deliberate fire-setting.

The activity ran from mid-October until the week after Bonfire Night itself, to account for any late bonfire parties, and whilst officers welcome the reduction in secondary incidents in comparison to the previous year, they are still urging people to take extra care over the coming months.

“A lot of work took place in the run up to bonfire night and I’d like to thank the public for their support, its pleasing to see that we’ve not seen an increase in incidents attended and have actually had a reduction in some areas, but it is important that we don’t become complacent,” said Area Manager Steve Helps, head of the joint police and fire community safety department.

“As we enter winter we’re continuing to urge parents and other responsible adults to have those 5 minute conversations with their kids to find out what they’re upto and outline the potential consequences of playing with fire.”

The service’s specific ‘Operation Dark Nights’ advice included:

  • Speak to your kids and find out what they’re up to – remind them of the damage that fire-setting can do to both people and property.
  • Bring your wheelie bins straight in after collection, and don’t leave them out overnight. These are often a target of arson.
  • Businesses – don’t leave your rubbish and waste lying around!
  • If you’re having a bonfire, make sure it is away from trees, bushes, sheds and fences.
  • Take care with fireworks and never go back to one once it is lit.

Fireworks (including sparklers) can only be bought from registered sellers, for private use, between 15 October and 10 November. They can also be bought between 26 to 31 December and 3 days before Diwali and Chinese New Year. Outside of these dates they can be purchased from licensed shops.

Service issues safety advice for Diwali celebrations

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue is once again calling on people across the county to take extra care today (Wednesday 7 November) and over the coming days as they celebrate Diwali.

With many families coming together, to celebrate what is one of the biggest dates in the religious calendar, comes an added risk due to the increased use of candles, divas, tealights and fireworks. The cooking of special meals can also bring additional dangers.

The service’s top five tips for Diwali, all of which involve taking very simple precautions, are:

  1. Always place divas/diyas, tea lights and candles on heat-resistant surfaces and well away from curtains and decorations.
  2. Children and pets should be supervised at all times near flames.
  3. Don’t let yourself get distracted – never leave cooking unattended.
  4. If a pan with oil in it catches fire, don’t move it and don’t throw water over it. Get out of the kitchen, close the door behind you and call 999.
  5. Ensure that all fireworks meet British safety standards and never go back to one once it is lit.

“This is a really important time for so many people across South Yorkshire, and we’re really keen that everyone observes it and enjoys it safely,” said Area Manager Steve Helps.

“Our main advice focuses on candle safety, simply keeping them away from flammable materials, such as curtains and clothes, and of course children, can make a big difference.”