Sheffield volunteer teaching sign language to firefighters

A much-loved Sheffield volunteer is helping the fire service to give safety advice to deaf and hard of hearing people, by sharing his sign language skills with crews.

Phil Bowers, aged 49, has volunteered for two days a week as a South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue fire support volunteer for more than five years, helping to carry out home safety visits and fitting smoke alarms.

But he is also a trained British Sign Language (BSL) interpreter, meaning he has been able to share basic signing skills with community safety staff and firefighters, including a watch at Parkway fire station and managers across the service.

Phil said; “Apart from teaching the crews at Parkway fire station I have also been teaching group managers and had invitations to teach at different fire stations in South Yorkshire. Having sign language skills feels like a great blessing to myself and I feel really lucky that it is not just in my head, but it is locked into my heart. I feel so blessed that I can share it with my fire service family.

“It is so nice that South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue want to learn about the deaf and hard of hearing community, which I have always felt sometimes doesn’t get noticed.

“It has been a pleasure for the last five years to be welcomed to the fire service family, to learn so many different skills and how to be professional in many different situations. It’s just been unbelievable and it has been the loveliest roller coaster of my life.

Area Manager Steve Helps, said: “Our brilliant volunteers contribute so much to the work we are doing to make people safer. We have dozens of volunteers, bringing a huge range of different and diverse qualities, skills and experiences. It can sometimes be harder for firefighters and other staff members to communicate with people who are deaf or hard of hearing, so Phil sharing some basic sign-language skills in this way will be of huge benefit.”

To find out more about volunteering with the fire service, visit http://www.syfire.gov.uk/find-a-job/volunteering/

Youngsters enjoy firefighter experience at Parkway fire station

A group of children from all across the country have been given a day to remember thanks to Parkway Blue Watch.

The youngsters, all of which have a limb difference, attended the station with their families as part of an event organised by the Barnsley-based LimbBo Foundation and Nick Abbott, station manager at Parkway.

They took part in a variety of fire and rescue related activities ranging from trying on fire kit to squirting water – all with the help and supervision of Parkway firefighters.

A ride in a fire engine was also on the agenda thanks to the National Emergency Services Museum which provided a non-operational appliance for the children to ride in.

“The communities we serve are at the centre of everything we do so we were really pleased to welcome the children, and their families, onto station and give them an insight into our work,” said Nick.

“They were so well behaved and seemed to love every minute. The fire engine ride and water squirting in particular went down really well and it was great to see the massive smiles on the children’s faces.”

Kind hearted fire volunteer comes to aid of stricken roadside couple

A volunteer at South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue has been thanked for her actions after helping an elderly couple when their car broke down on a busy main road in blistering heat.

Andy Swarek, who has been volunteering within the service for six months, was on her way home from an event in Conisbrough when she came across the elderly couple who appeared to be stranded at the side of the road.

Mavis and George White, both in their late 70’s, had broken down on a busy road in Doncaster and had been told there was a four hour wait for a recovery vehicle. Despite the soaring temperatures, Mavis and George stood for 90 minutes with jump leads at the ready in the hope that a bystander would come to their aid.

After having been passed by hundreds of motorists, it was Andy that eventually pulled over to help jump start the couple’s car.

Mavis and George said: “As we weren’t registered with a breakdown company we weren’t a priority and feared we’d be sat there for the full four hours we’d been quoted. Andy stopped, was extremely polite and even offered us some water. She was kind and patient and was sympathetic to our situation even though she probably just wanted to get home. Andy went above and beyond and is a credit to the fire service as a volunteer.”

Andy said: “I’d been sat in tailback traffic for about 15 minutes when I saw George stood by his car with one of the jump leads in his hand and the other connected to his car. Whilst other motorists seemed to be simply driving by, I pulled over to help. As soon as I stopped they both seemed to be very relieved to see me.”

Mavis and George’s daughter, Rebecca White, contacted the fire service to pass on her thanks to Andy. She said: “It might just be a jump start and a drink to some people but to my parents in their late 70’s this meant the world. Andy is a huge credit to South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue and our faith in humanity has been restored because of her actions.”

Andy is a volunteer cadet instructor within the service. Her role involves working with 13-18 year olds, teaching them about the importance of fire safety including various firefighting skills and techniques.

If you would like to find out more about becoming a volunteer at South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue, visit our website http://www.syfire.gov.uk/find-a-job/volunteering/ or get in touch with us on volunteers@syfire.gov.uk

Station open days

A number of fire stations across South Yorkshire will be holding a family fun day during the summer.  The full list of stations are below:

Thorne station – Monday 20 August – 10am-3pm
Union Road, Thorne, Doncaster DN8 5EL

Lowedges station – Saturday 25 August – 10am-3:30pm
Lowedges Road, Sheffield S8 7JN

Rotherham station – Sunday 26 August – 10am-4pm
Fitzwilliam Road, Eastwood, Rotherham S65 1ST

Barnsley station – Saturday 8 September – 10am-2pm
Broadway, Barnsley S70 6RA

There will be a range of activities for all the family at each open day including:

  • Fire engines to look round
  • Demonstrations
  • Fire cadets
    And much more

Pitsmoor playground workers hail impact of fire funding

Play workers behind a much-loved community playground in Sheffield have hailed the impact fire service backing has had on their facility.

Pitsmoor Adventure Playground was built in the 1970s, but funding problems earlier this decade meant the site was open for just nine hours per week.

Now thanks to help from a range of partners, including cash from South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Authority’s Stronger Safer Communities Reserve fund, the playground is helping to transform the lives of children in the area- with fire officers hoping it will help to reduce fires in the process.

The playground is accessed by children and young people from across Pitsmoor, Burngreave and the surrounding areas, including harder to reach children from Roma Slovak, Yemeni and Somali communities.

Evidence suggests it is making a big impact on young people’s life skills, behaviour and personal self-care, including dental hygiene.

Children visiting the playground are also encouraged by play team workers and volunteers to become active citizens, taking care of the playground and the surrounding communities. The fire funding, which had been set aside from the Authority’s reserves, helped to pay for fire safety through play sessions and additional learning sessions have been delivered on keeping safe on roads and around water.

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Area Manager Steve Helps, said: “We know that we can’t hope to reach every member of our community on our own, which is why we need the help of charities and community organisations like this one. Our goal as a fire service is to make our communities safer and stronger and we believe our contribution towards this important and much-loved facility in the heart of one of Sheffield’s more deprived neighbourhoods is a good example of how we are working towards that mission.”

Fire Authority member Cllr Jackie Satur, said: “This is exactly the sort of project the Fire Authority has been proud to support- making a measurable difference to the lives of young people in a particularly deprived area, whilst at the same time helping to reduce fires through targeted education and advice.”         

Charity Manager Patrick Meleady, said, “We are delighted to have secured the support of South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue and through our partnership arrangements have engaged with 100s of people, this project is making a considerable difference within our community having a direct impact on educating the children on the importance of keeping safe.”

For more information visit pitsmooradventure.org.

Young cadets ‘graduate’ at fire service ceremony

South Yorkshire fire cadets have been honored at a ceremony in Sheffield to mark their achievements.

More than 20 cadets, aged 13 to 17, were recognised in front of friends and family at the event at the fire service’s Handsworth training base, for successfully completing their Level 1 and Level 2 BTEC in Teamwork and Personal skills in a Uniform Organisation.

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue runs seven cadet schemes- at Birley Moor, Cudworth, Edlington, Elm Lane, Dearne, Rotherham and Stocksbridge fire stations.

Cadets train at their respective stations once a week, learning firefighting skills and techniques from specially qualified instructors. They also play a key role at community events and take part in team-building days throughout the year.

Cadets enrol on to the CVQO education package, which covers the employability skills needed to work within the health and emergency services. The young people had 12months to work towards a recognised qualification, with certificates for successful completion of the programme handed out at last week’s event.

Station manager Matt Gillatt, said: “Our fire cadets scheme has a long and proud history. Over the years the scheme has evolved to provide a much more rounded mixture of skills and training, including community work and exercises to build personal confidence and employment skills.

“South Yorkshire has one of the most successful fire cadet schemes in the country, so it is right that we recognise the achievements of our youngsters in this way.”

Cutlers’ success for fire service with double award win

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue has scooped two gongs at the Cutlers’ Company Police and Fire Service annual awards.

Station Manager Chris Mee took home the individual prize for his achievements in providing realistic fire training to firefighters.

The training, developed in partnership with Barnsley Council and Berneslai Homes, involved the lighting of real fires within soon to be demolished residential properties, providing firefighters with realistic training scenarios.

Due to its success, the project has been widely discussed up and down the UK as a potential opportunity for other fire and rescue services to explore. Thus far, over 150 South Yorkshire operational staff members have gained valuable realistic experience from these exercises.

The service’s Business Fire Safety team were recognised for their local work in response to the Grenfell Tower disaster. Alongside carrying out usual business fire safety activities, the team coordinated and undertook fire safety audits at 43 Local Authority High Rise residential buildings and 44 at privately owned high rise buildings within South Yorkshire, met with hundreds of residents and delivered specialist training to firefighters.

Assistant Chief Fire Officer, Alex Johnson said: “We strive to be the best at everything we do, so these award wins are a fantastic achievement for the fire service and provide well deserved recognition for the hard and varied work our staff do on a daily basis to keep the public of South Yorkshire safe.”

The awards, which took place in the Cutlers’ Hall, Sheffield, were presented by the Master Cutler, Ken Cooke.

Firefighters graduate from South Yorkshire recruits course

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue’s latest group of new recruits has successfully graduated following 13 weeks of intensive training.

The group of eleven full-time firefighters have completed their training with South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue and will now join crews at their respective fire stations around the county.

A passing out parade at the service’s Training & Development Centre was attended by family, friends and local dignitaries. It included demonstrations from the recruits who showcased the skills that they have learnt over the last three months. There was also a special performance from the City of Sheffield Pipe Band.

The course included an intensive period of safety critical learning which covered skills such as ladder and hose reel drills, road traffic collision extrication and breathing apparatus training.

The much anticipated award for Top Recruit went to Firefighter Ian Hibberd who was presented with the silver axe.

Deputy Chief Fire Officer Martin Blunden, said: “Well done to our newest firefighters who have beaten off competition from hundreds of other applicants, they really are the best of the best and are a credit to both themselves and their loved ones.

“The intensive course they have been on will prepare them for a challenging yet rewarding career with South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Service. The training they’ve received covers the wide and varied role of a modern firefighter, with our work to keep people safe and prevent emergencies every bit as important as the work we are most associated with- responding to 999 calls.”

For more information on a career as a South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue firefighter, visit www.syfrrecruitment.com

Businesses asked to back up alarms as fire service battles heatwave

The fire service has called on businesses to back up automatic fire alarms with 999 calls, as it battles higher than average call volumes during the heatwave.

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue automatically attends certain industrial and commercial premises which are fitted with specialist fire alarm systems, despite the call outs almost always turning out to be false alarms.

With 999 operators handling hundreds of calls a day and firefighters attending dozens more incidents than usual during the current hot spell, officers want building managers of non-life risk premises to dial 999 to confirm there’s definitely a fire.

Group Manager Andy Hayter, said: “Most false alarms are caused by faulty fire detection equipment, people setting alarms off by accident, not following correct fire alarm test procedure or building managers failing to investigate the cause of the fire alarm.

“Whilst we will always attend incidents where there is definitely a fire, this short term, common sense measure will help to ensure that our fire engines are available to attend genuine emergencies if they do occur.”

To reduce false alarms, businesses should check their alarm systems regularly and train staff properly on what to do if an alarm sounds.

Crews issue safety warning following battery blaze

Firefighters are warning the public about the potential dangers posed by purchasing unbranded electrical goods on the internet after an incident in which a battery bought online caught fire.

Crews from Elm Lane, Rotherham and Parkway green watch recently attended the incident in Kimberworth, Rotherham. Upon arrival crews found that the battery, which was for a head torch, had set alight whilst on charge and the fire had quickly spread to the kitchen units. This had caused a large amount of smoke logging in the property, damaging the hallway and stairway.

Luckily, the property had two new working smoke alarms which had been fitted by the fire service and they successfully alerted the occupier, who was sat in the rear garden at the time, to the fire.

Firefighters used a hose reel and breathing apparatus to extinguish the flames and also ventilated the property.

Upon leaving, crews ensured the two smoke alarms that had sounded were replaced with new alarms.

There are some simple things you can do to prevent electrical fires. For example:

  • Don’t buy cheap, unbranded chargers and make sure chargers or other electrical items are compatible to the device you are using
  • Don’t leave things to charge overnight or beyond the recommended charging time. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions
  • Keep electrical items away from flammable materials when charging
  • Don’t overload sockets– long, strip adaptors are safest, but can only take a total of 13 amps