Sheffield man commended for life-saving actions

A man from Sheffield has been commended by South Yorkshire’s Chief Fire Officer for helping to save a woman’s life last year, after she became trapped in a river.

Cole Johnson was walking across a bridge near Broadfield Road with his girlfriend, at around 8.30pm on Thursday 12 July, when he noticed a body in the water below.

On closer inspection he realised it was a woman – who was stuck with potentially serious head injuries – and immediately entered the water to help.

He used his jacket to stem the bleeding from her head, ensured she stayed still to prevent any spinal injuries and stayed with her, offering reassurance and support, until emergency services arrived.

“What Mr Johnson did, in selflessly getting into the river to help, was clearly a heroic act. He potentially saved a life,” said Assistant Chief Fire Officer, Tony Carlin.

“Even in summer open bodies of water are much colder than they look, yet he still got in there and spent at least 30 minutes supporting this woman.

“Our firefighters, and ambulance colleagues, worked swiftly to get her to safety, but without his intervention and bravery the outcome could have been much worse.”

In recognition of his actions, Cole will be awarded the highest level of recognition and thanks available from a fire and rescue service – a Chief Fire Officer’s commendation – that will be presented at a ceremony tomorrow at Rivelin Fire Station.

This award goes to people who have demonstrated meritorious conduct – putting themselves at some sort of risk to save a life in a hazardous situation.

“It was a nice summers evening and we’d just been in the park when I saw what looked like a body in the river,” said Cole reflecting on the incident, over eight months on.

“As I climbed down the river bank to get a closer look I realised it was a woman stuck, then something just switched in me. I just wanted to make sure she was OK so I got in and used my jacket to stop the bleeding from her head wound.

“I didn’t really want to move her out of the water as I didn’t know whether she’d got spinal injuries, so I just kept her still and spoke to her until help arrived.

“People kept thanking me afterwards but I didn’t really feel like I had done anything. It was a really strange experience, but I’m just glad the ambulance crew was able to give her the help she needed.”

Fire spate prompts warning to businesses

Fire officers are issuing a warning to care homes, hotels and other South Yorkshire businesses this week following a series of recent tumble dryer fires.

Firefighters from Stocksbridge, Tankersley and Rivelin were called to the Belmont House Care Home in Stocksbridge at the end of last month to a fire in the laundry room.

The cause of the blaze, which occurred on Wednesday 30 January and caused significant damage to the laundry room, was put down to a build up of fluff in a tumble dryer.

John Parry, one of the service’s business fire safety managers, says the majority of these incidents are caused either by the build-up of fluff, or by the build-up of heat during the drying cycle.

“These incidents can be devastating to businesses as they can incur costs upwards of £300,000 but, more importantly, can put people and lives in danger,” he added.

“This is especially relevant in care homes where the residents may be vulnerable and, in our view, should provide more than enough motivation to start taking steps to reduce the risk from your dryers.

“It is also worth noting that many businesses never recover after a fire, 60 per cent in fact. Fortunately there are simple things you can do to safeguard your business and residents.”

The service’s advice to businesses, for preventing tumble dryer fires, is outlined below:

  • Service and maintain all dryers as per the manufacturers guidelines
  • Keep them clean – regularly empty lint and fluff from the filters
  • Allow them to finish their full cycle so that the load can cool down properly
  • Don’t leave them running overnight
  • Register them to ensure you’re kept aware of any recalls or updates

Disgust after latest firefighter attack in Carcroft

Firefighters were left ‘absolutely disgusted’ last night after having various objects thrown at them whilst attending an incident in Doncaster.

Crews were called to Chestnut Avenue in Carcroft at 6.57pm yesterday (Wednesday 6 February) to reports of a wheelie bin fire in a park.

Upon arrival they were met by a gang of youths who were initially verbally aggressive, before starting to throw random objects – forcing firefighters to withdraw from the incident until officers from South Yorkshire Police arrived.

This latest attack follows a number of previous incidents during the bonfire period.

“Clearly this group has set fire to a bin, in the knowledge that we would attend, and awaited our arrival where they have hurled abuse and physical objects at our firefighters,” said Area Manager Andy Strelczenie, the service’s head of emergency response.

“This is totally unacceptable and we’re absolutely disgusted by what happened. Our crews put themselves in danger every day to keep the people of South Yorkshire safe, they don’t deserve to be abused in any way.

“As with the incidents over the bonfire period we’ll be working closely with our police colleagues to identify those responsible and bring them to justice.

“I’m sure they’ll be surprised to find out that this kind of behaviour now carries a custodial sentence of upto 12 months – thanks to a new law that came into force last year.”

  • The Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Bill will create a new offence of assault against an emergency worker in the exercise of their functions with a penalty that is increased from 6 months to 12 months
  • The Bill also creates a statutory aggravating factor. This means that when a person is convicted of a range of offences including sexual assault, ABH, GBH and manslaughter, the judge must consider the fact that the offence was committed against an emergency worker as an aggravating factor meriting an increase in the sentence within the maximum allowed for the particular offence
  • The Bill will cover emergency workers, this includes police, prison officers, custody officers, fire service personnel, search and rescue services and certain healthcare workers including ambulance personnel

Fire service investing reserves in fire station improvements

Fire station improvements are being prioritised as part of a major investment in fire service buildings, a report to the service’s governing Fire Authority will say.

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue plans to spend more than £8 million in one off, reserve funding on its buildings over the next few years- modernising its estate and improving the working environment for firefighters and other staff.

The biggest scheme involves the rebuilding of Barnsley fire station, which has reached the end of its operational life. A new, three vehicle bay building will be built on the current site, plus a separate unit where community schemes like the service’s successful Princes Trust Team Programme partnership with South Yorkshire Police can be housed.

Other major works include refurbishments of fire stations, including those at Rivelin, Rotherham and Thorne. Gyms are also being improved, supporting firefighters in meeting national fitness testing standards.

Plans are also being drawn up to move South Yorkshire Police’s vehicle bodywork and paint shop into the fire service’s own vehicle workshops at Eastwood in Rotherham. That work forms part of a wider collaborative project to bring the two organisation’s fleet management functions closer together.

Director of Support Services Stuart Booth, said: “One of our aspirations is to make our organisation a great place to work. Part of achieving that means investing in the buildings and facilities our staff use every day and we’re pleased to be making progress towards this.”

The service has produced an estates action plan to detail its work in this area.

The progress report on estates and facilities service improvements will be discussed at the South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Authority meeting on Monday 11 February.

Fire service proposes digital efficiencies to free up time for firefighters

Paper-based processes will be ditched and technology used more widely in a bid to free up time for firefighters and fire safety officers, a report will recommend.

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue will ask its governing Fire Authority to approve recommendations to modernise many of its systems and processes, including the use of one-off reserve funding to fast-track some of the key changes.

The report proposes committing around £680,000 in reserve funding, which has already been committed to support investments which will save the service time and money in the future.

More than half of the money will be used to create more robust back up arrangements for its systems- better safeguarding against cyber attacks which remain one of the biggest national security threats.

Other improvements include digitising the way water hydrants used by firefighters to tackle fires are checked and monitored, an electronic system for recording and maintaining equipment on fire engines and using new data sharing tools to better prioritise safe and well checks for the vulnerable.

Work has already taken place to update the recording of staff sickness, stopping firefighters from having to complete multiple paper forms.

Director of Support Services Stuart Booth, said: “Our firefighters and fire safety officers deliver some brilliant work, but often they are working with old fashioned, paper based systems. We desperately want to modernize and make greater use of technology, to make their lives easier and create more time for them to do what they do best- making local people safer.

“Whilst we can feel safe in the knowledge that our systems and equipment are as safe as they can be, the nature of cyber threats mean that they are constantly changing and evolving, which is why we’re also proposing to boost our back up arrangements so we can seamlessly recover in the event of an attack of this nature.”

HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) criticised some fire and rescue services for being slow to modernise their systems and processes, in a report released last year.

South Yorkshire became one of the first fire services in the country to achieve Cyber Essential Plus accreditation last year, further illustrating the measures it has taken to keep its systems and information secure.

The ‘Digital Transformation Roadmap’ will be debated at the South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Authority meeting on Monday 11 February.

Fire Authority to consider Council Tax precept rise

The fire service’s governing Fire Authority will decide whether to increase its portion of Council Tax by 2.99% next year, at its budget setting meeting later this month.

Current indications are that South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue will lose around £800,000 in its Government grant funding in 2019/20, when compared with 2018/19.

Householders in Band D currently pay £71.01 per year for their Fire and Rescue Service, around £1.37 per week. The decision to increase council tax would raise around £750,000 in annual funding for the fire service- the equivalent of around 20 firefighters.

The service has previously outlined the financial risks it faces in its medium term financial plan, which it will need to find further savings to address. These include:

  • The requirement to save £1.4 million from the service’s annual budget, following the outcome of a Judicial Review relating to the Close Proximity Crewing duty system
  • The outcome of a Government pensions revaluation, which will almost certainly mean a sharp rise in employer pension contributions
  • An uncertain financial future for all public services, with further cuts likely beyond 2020/21

Plans to be developed later this year will consider how these cost pressures affect the way in which South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue delivers its service to the public in the future.

Fire Authority Members will make their decision on Council Tax at the fire and rescue authority meeting on Monday 11 February.