Sheffield hoarding support cutting fire risk thanks to service funding

People who hoard are being helped to change their habits, thanks to the fire service funded work of a Sheffield mental health charity.

Sheffield Mind’s ‘Magpies’ project is part way through a two year mission to support people who hoard under a scheme paid for under money set aside from South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Authority’s reserves.

Specially trained support workers meet with people for weekly one-to-one sessions where they discuss their lifestyles, the possible reasons behind their hoarding histories and ways they could change their behaviour.

A training exchange sees the charity offer mental health awareness training to fire service staff how to spot the signs of hoarding, whilst the fire service have trained Sheffield mind staff in basic fire prevention advice. A self-help support group is also attended by more than a dozen people with hoarding issues each month.

The project only has capacity to work with up to 10 people one-to-one at any given time, but is starting to have a big impact on those it is designed to help.

Its clients include ‘Mandy’ who has limited mobility and has hoarded items for several years after leaving an abusive relationship. Mandy’s home was severely cluttered, with whole rooms inaccessible and escape routes and corridors blocked- putting her at greater risk in the event that a fire did start in her home. But by working with Mandy over a period of several months, support workers have helped her to sort through her belongings and to make decisions to let them go, significantly reducing the fire risk hazard and making more space in her home.

Sheffield Mind Head of Operations, Rob Horsley, said: “Hoarding behaviours are a very complex issue which are about far more than someone simply collecting large quantities of things over a long period of time- often it is linked to other, significant life events or mental health difficulties and requires a considered, thoughtful approach to address. We’re pleased that the work we are doing is starting to have a tangible impact on people’s safety from fire.”

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Area Manager Steve Helps said: “We know there are some common factors involved in nearly all of our most serious fires, which is why our focus in recent years has been on targeting our prevention work at those who are at greatest risk. Our work with Sheffield Mind is a really good example of this as, although the number of people the project supports is quite small, the impact on their safety is huge.”

The project was awarded £88,000 under the Stronger Safer Communities Reserve. The fund is a Fire Authority scheme which reinvests money into local communities to support our work to prevent emergencies. The money has been set aside from the Authority’s reserves.

Have your say on our equality and inclusion work

We’ve drafted a strategy to help guide our equality, diversity and inclusion work over the next four years.

We know that the strongest and most effective teams are built in a workplace where everyone feels valued and respected. This helps us to deliver inclusive services, ultimately keeping our communities safer.

Equality, diversity and inclusion is also at the heart of our service and how we engage our communities. They drive our purpose of providing effective services that meet local needs and help make our workforce truly representative of the communities we serve.

We really want members of the public to share their views on our Equality Diversity & Inclusion Strategy including our five priorities for this work which are:

  1. Improving diversity
  2. Inclusive culture
  3. Fair treatment
  4. Inclusive services
  5. Engaging communities

You can have your say on our draft strategy here

New Deputy Fire Chief for South Yorkshire

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Authority (SYFRA) has appointed a new Deputy Chief Fire Officer.

Alex Johnson was appointed following a selection process which included a written application, operational assessment and panel interview with members of the Fire Authority.

Alex had been fulfilling the role on a temporary basis since January, having joined South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue as Assistant Chief Fire Officer in 2017. She’d previously served with Derbyshire Fire & Rescue for more than 25 years, having joined as a firefighter in 1992.

Fire Authority Chair Cllr Chris Lamb, said: “Alex was an incredibly impressive candidate whose passion for the job and hunger to continually improve the service and its culture really shone through. We really look forward to working with her in her new role.”

Alex said: “I’m really excited to be in a position to continue leading the development of the service, backed by a brilliant team of exceptionally talented firefighters and support staff who are proud of the part they play in making South Yorkshire a safer and stronger place to live and work.”

Police and fire team picks up national award for keeping 999 workers on the road

A joint team which keeps police officers and firefighters on the road has picked up a major national award- just over a year after work started to bring their activity closer together.

South Yorkshire Police and South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue’s fleet management team were named ‘fleet of the year’ at a ceremony in London in recognition of the collaborative work they’re now leading.

The team jointly manages nearly 1,000 vehicles from fire engines to police cars.

Specific pieces of work the team has jointly undertaken include fire service mechanics repairing police horseboxes and advising on the purchase of replacement vehicles.

Police HGV drivers also now undergo driver training and certification at the fire service’s Handsworth training centre.

Police auto electricians have worked to repair fire appliances, better systems are being put in place to monitor fuel and vehicle maintenance and agreements are in place which mean police and fire officers can share pool vehicles during times of especially high operational demand.

Sarah Gilding, who was appointed Head of Joint Vehicle Fleet Management last year, said: “Staff at both organisations are already rightly proud of the role they play in supporting the activity of frontline firefighters and police officers. They are skilled and dedicated professionals who’ve really grasped the opportunities that working more closely together might bring. This is award is deserved recognition for their efforts.”

The successful collaborative programme between South Yorkshire Police and South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue was launched in early 2017, to build on existing activities undertaken in collaboration between both organisations. The programme has already led to the creation of a Joint Police and Fire Station in Maltby, Rotherham, the development of a Joint Community Safety Department and the appointment of a Head of Joint Estates and Facilities Management.

Other, long standing collaborations include Lifewise, which is an interactive safety centre in Hellaby, Rotherham which has been jointly run by the police and fire services since 2011 to deliver education packages to more than 20,000 local people every year, including nearly every Year 6 pupil in South Yorkshire.

A jointly delivered Princes Trust Team Programme, which has helped to transform the lives of more than 200 young people in three years

Off duty firefighters in Welsh rescue

South Yorkshire firefighters have helped to rescue a man who fell into the sea- in Wales!

The six- Firefighter o’Donnell, Firefighter Martin, Crew Manager Marsh, Crew Manager Bowes and Watch Managers Devonport and Gaye- were visiting the principality for a water rescue training course when they spotted people rushing to the aid of a stricken casualty who slipped off the promenade in Beaumaris.

The older man had fallen into the sea whilst out walking with his wife last Wednesday morning.

Passers-by raised the alarm and secured a throwline around him.

The Beaumaris lifeboat crew and Penmon Coastguard Rescue Team were then mobilised to assist- which is when the firefighters from South Yorkshire became involved.

Watch Manager Gary Devonport, who was amongst the rescuers, said: “We’d only been reflecting that morning how we often seem to stumble upon incidents like this when we’re away on training courses, then we saw a man in a dry suit rush past the window of the room where we were having breakfast. We immediately realised something serious had happened, so we gathered our equipment and went to see what we could help.

“The lifeboat crew had successfully rescued the man from the water’s edge, then we helped to carry him back to the safety of the lifeboat station. The man was clearly in a lot of pain and with the help of the RNLI crew helped get the man out of his wet clothes. And provided him with some oxygen and thermal balnkets. at the time and had a suspected broken hip, but we understand he is making a recovery and wish him well for the future.”

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.

South Yorkshire joins national on-call firefighter recruitment drive

South Yorkshire has joined a major national firefighter recruitment drive, which launches today.

On-Call Firefighter Awareness Week (7-13 January) is a UK-wide initiative to get more people to protect their communities by signing up to become on-call firefighters.

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue currently employs on-call firefighters at seven fire stations- Askern, Birley Moor, Cudworth, Dearne, Rossington, Stocksbridge and Penistone.

On-call firefighters are local people who live within five minutes of those fire stations and are paid to respond to emergencies. They do not staff the fire station 24 hours a day like full-time firefighters. They are notified of a 999 call via a personal pager which they carry with them when they are on duty. They are also paid to train and, when needed, carry out safety work in the community.

Head of Emergency Response Tony Carlin, said: “We’ve employed on-call firefighters for decades and they play a vital role in keeping local people safe. But we need more people who are passionate about the places they live to become on call firefighters.

“If being a firefighter is something that appeals to you, but you already have a career or other commitments, now is the chance for you to find out if you can still make it happen.  There’ s lots of flexibility to work around other commitments such as family, studying or work, so we really want people to get in touch to find out if it could be a career for them.”

The National Fire Chief’s Council and Home Office are behind the national campaign, using materials designed to appeal to a wide range of potential applicants.

To find out more about the role of an on-call firefighters visit or to register your interest with South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue here

Who has helped you?

Has someone gone the extra mile for you? Say thank you to someone who has made a difference to you or someone you know.

We want to give a public voice to our staff recognition so that some of our hidden heroes across our fire stations and support teams can get the thank you they deserve.

We know our staff can often make a massive difference to people’s lives through their work to make local people safer- whether it’s attending emergencies, fitting smoke alarms, visiting schools or helping out in their communities.

From firefighters and community safety teams, to volunteers and reception staff, anyone who works for South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue can be nominated.

To nominate someone, simply head over to our Facebook page (click here) let us know the name of the person and explain in your own words why they should be recognised. Don’t worry if you don’t remember the exact names of the people who helped, just let us know the area and date that you received a good service from us and we should be able to track them down.

If you don’t use Facebook you can also email us at: with the details of who you’d like to nominate.

We’ll share some of our favourite stories on social media and the overall winners will be presented awards at our Long Service Good Conduct staff awards ceremony next year.