South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue

South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue
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New Barnsley fire station taking shape

A brand new, energy efficient station for Barnsley’s firefighters is taking shape.

The former three-storey building on Broadway, Kingstone has been demolished and the steelwork for a new two storey, three bay facility on the same site is already up.

Firefighters are being housed in a temporary facility off-site whilst construction of the new building takes place

Director of Support Services Stuart Booth, said: “We’re making really good progress with the development, which represents part of our vision to provide all our firefighters with modern, comfortable and energy efficient spaces in which to live and work.

“We’re confident that this major building project, which is being paid for using money set aside from the Authority’s reserves, will become fully operational later this summer and provide an outstanding service to the people of Barnsley for many years to come.”

A separate multi-use facility is to be built on the same site, which will host the service’s award-winning Princes Trust Team Programme initiative as well as providing space to hold events and meetings and bookings from community groups. A new training building to complement the existing drill tower is to be constructed also. Both of these builds will take place once the main fire station is complete.

Energy saving measures at the new fire station will include low energy, LED lighting with motion sensors and an air source heat pump.

The investment forms part of a wider, short to medium term approved plan to invest in the fire service’s property estate, with around £8 million being set aside from its reserves to modernise and improve its estate.

Bond Bryan acted as architects for the project, with JF Finnegans appointed as contractors.

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Police and fire team reflects on ‘year like no other’ 12 months on from first lockdown

An emergency services team on the frontline of keeping people safe during the pandemic has revealed the full breadth of its work, as it reflects on a year’s activity since the UK’s first lockdown.

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue and South Yorkshire Police’s joint community safety department has delivered education packages to more than 8,000 children, visited 2,500 high-risk vulnerable people and given guns and knives training to over 2,100 pupils.

Thousands more children have attended internet safety sessions, 64 people accessed the department’s ‘Think Family’ arson intervention scheme and 11,000 school children attended the interactive safety centre- Lifewise- when Covid-19 restrictions were eased last year.

All of this came on top of the team’s efforts to support vulnerable people during the Covid-19 pandemic, including deliveries of essential food and medicines to hundreds of homes.

Area Manager Simon Dunker, leads the joint department, said: “The last 12 months really have been a year like no other for us as a team, but I just feel so incredibly proud of the way our staff and volunteers have stepped up to help keep local people safe.

“Like so many organisations, we’ve had to adapt very quickly- suspending or transferring our core activities online the moment the first lockdown was announced, whilst also taking on new tasks to make sure vulnerable people in South Yorkshire were getting the support they needed.

“Staff from across fire and policing have risen to that challenge brilliantly, though of course we are now looking forward to delivering more face-to-face help to people as lockdown restrictions hopefully continue to ease throughout the remainder of this year.

The Policing & Crime Act 2017 placed a new statutory duty on all three emergency services to look at opportunities to work with one another better to improve efficiency and effectiveness.

The joint community safety department was formed in 2018, bringing together existing teams in the police and fire and rescue services.

The team’s core activities include the delivery of schools education work, safety visits to people’s homes and youth engagement initiatives such as its award winning Princes Trust Team Programme.

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False information on social media targeted in new South Yorkshire campaign

Misinformation is the target of a new campaign in South Yorkshire, which seeks to curb the spread of false content online.

Health chiefs, emergency services and councils across South Yorkshire are coming together to warn people to think twice about the things they share- and to get their information from official sources.

The tongue-in-cheek campaign draws on local references and familiar conversations to point out how well-meaning conversations online can quickly develop and become harmful.

Sheffield’s Director of Public Health Greg Fell, said: “Research suggests that younger people are particularly susceptible to misleading and false information, which can spread to tens of thousands of people very quickly on social media or via instant messaging applications like Whatsapp.

“Some of the examples we’re sharing as part of this campaign are intentionally light hearted, but the issue is a really serious one. False or misleading information has the potential to cause harm and cost lives during any emergency, but especially during a public health crisis like the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Clearly there’s little we can do to stop people posting false information online, nor are we in a position where we want to curb people’s freedom of speech. What we do want people to do is to think twice before they share information online and to refer to trusted, official sources wherever possible- like government, council or emergency service websites.”

The ‘Killer Detail’ campaign has been developed by public agencies which form part of South Yorkshire’s Local Resilience Forum. The forum is responsible for overseeing the region’s response to major emergencies, including the Covid-19 pandemic.

A study published by King’s College London and Ipsos MORI in December found one in three people in the UK have been exposed to messages discouraging the public from getting a coronavirus vaccine.

The research revealed that a notable minority believe conspiracy theories- with belief especially high among young people and those who get a lot of information on the pandemic from social media platforms.

The Government launched its own campaign to combat minsinformation online last in March, using shareable videos and trust community figures to call for people to check before they share.

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Fire staff to deliver vaccine as part of St John Ambulance volunteer scheme

Fire service staff have been trained by St John Ambulance, as part of a volunteer scheme to help deliver the NHS vaccination programme.

Staff including firefighters, officers and support were trained to administer the vaccine and to support people as they go through the vaccination process.

The volunteers will complete up to two shifts a month with St John Ambulance as part of the huge national effort to get the country vaccinated.

Chief Fire Officer Alex Johnson, said: “No matter what the challenge is, fire and rescue service staff are ready, willing and able to help our communities wherever it is needed.

“I am very proud of every member of staff who has stepped forward so far to receive this training and incredibly grateful to St John Ambulance for giving us the skills, training and opportunity to do our bit.

“Myself and the other staff who have volunteered really can’t wait to get out to a vaccination centre to support this monumental national effort.”

Fire and rescue staff have already delivered more than 120,000 vaccines nationally.

In South Yorkshire, the fire service has supported the local response to the pandemic by delivering food and medicine to isolated people, distributing more than 1.3 million pieces of PPE to frontline health workers and working with military planners to identify vaccination sites. Some firefighters also volunteered to drive ambulances during the first wave.

The service was recently presented with an award by the High Sheriff of South Yorkshire Carole O’Neill in recognition of its work during the pandemic.

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Fire service adds off-road vehicles as latest weapon to tackle moorland wildfires

South Yorkshire’s firefighters have a new weapon to help them tackle moorland wildfires- off road vehicles.

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue has added two Polaris vehicles to its fleet, helping crews to respond more effectively to wildfires and other incidents which might be hard to reach using a traditional fire engine.

The vehicles are to be fitted with water pumps which can be taken off and used to douse flames at the frontline of a large fire on moor or grass land.

Fire crews will spend the next few months being trained in their use, before the vehicles are made available to attend incidents right across South Yorkshire.

The vehicles will be based at Thorne fire station in Doncaster and Rivelin fire station in Sheffield.

Station Manager Mike Anthony, said: “We’re always committed to giving frontline firefighters the best possible kit to help them do their jobs effectively. We believe these vehicles will become incredibly versatile additions to our fleet, enhancing our ability to deal with challenging incidents on tough terrain, as well as a wide variety of other incident types.”

The investment is part of a bigger effort to enhance the service’s ability to respond to moorland wildfires, including additional welfare support and extra training for crews.

Last year, firefighters spent several weeks tackling a deep-seated fire on peat moorland in Thorne and Hatfield. The site of special scientific interest was home to several rare and endangered species.

As the weather warms up and the country unlocks, firefighters are once more urging the public to play their part in preventing moorland fires.

Their advice includes never having BBQs in open countryside or parkland, discarding of cigarettes carefully and taking your rubbish with you as glass bottles can magnify the sun’s rays starting fires.

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Fire Authority approve Council Tax precept rise

The fire service’s governing Fire Authority has decided to increase its portion of Council Tax by 1.99% next year, at its budget setting meeting on Monday.

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue says the increase will help to support investments its making to its frontline service- including the recruitment of additional firefighters- as well as helping it to prepare for potentially more uncertain times ahead.

Householders in Band D will pay £76.07 per year for their Fire and Rescue Service- an increase of about three pence per week compared to the current rate of £74.59. The decision to increase council tax will raise around £530,000 in annual funding for the fire service- the equivalent of around 15 firefighters.

The service outlined the financial risks it faces in its medium term financial plan, which includes uncertainty around the impact of Coiv-19 on its council tax base and central government funding.

Fire Authority Members made their decision on Council Tax at the fire and rescue authority meeting on Monday 22 February. You can view the webcast here.

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High volume pumps deployed to support removal of surface water in Sykehouse

Firefighters are deploying two high volume pumps to Sykehouse in Doncaster in a bid to aid the removal of surface water which is currently lying on flood plains in the area.

River levels in the area are falling and existing drainage pumping arrangements are working well.

However, South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue has deployed the pumps- one of which is being sent by Nottinghamshire Fire & Rescue- to support the speedy removal of the water and to help reassure communities living nearby.

The fire service has been working with Doncaster Council and the Environment Agency on the deployment says it expects to be in the area for around 48 hours.

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Fire service’s pandemic response praised in South Yorkshire

A national inspection has praised the response of South Yorkshire’s fire service to the Covid-19 pandemic.

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue adapted to the pandemic effectively, carried on delivering its core services and provided additional support to the community during the first phase of the pandemic.

Inspectors also found that staff wellbeing was made a clear priority for the service and praised senior leaders for actively promoting wellbeing services, in a report published by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) today.

Chief Fire Officer Alex Johnson said: “I’m so incredibly proud of the way staff from right across the service have responded to a really difficult situation and I’m pleased that so much of their hard work has been recognised by inspectors.

“Right at the start of the pandemic, I asked my staff to stand up and be counted at a time of enormous national need. Whether it was delivering food and medicine to isolated, vulnerable people, delivering PPE to frontline health workers or volunteering to drive ambulances and fit face masks, they stepped up in a really big way.”

All fire and rescue services underwent a Covid-19 themed HMICFRS inspection to find out how well they had responded to the first stages of the pandemic.

Although they weren’t given a graded judgement, a written response highlighted areas of good work and areas for improvement.

“Whilst the pandemic has presented us with some obvious challenges and taken a terrible toll on our communities, like so many organisations it has also helped us to make massive leaps forward in terms of modernising our ways of working and planning for and responding to disruptive events such as this in the future. Our next task is to ensure all that learning and all those improvements are adopted longer term,” said Alex.

Fire Authority Chair Cllr Robert Taylor, said: “This inspection was unique, Fire and Rescue Services are normally assessed against standardised and known criteria, the onset of the Covid 19 Pandemic meant our service was required to carry out many functions and tasks it wouldn’t normally be expected to undertake and inspectors considered how the service had met that challenge.

“It is clear from this report and indeed from our own observation as a Fire Authority, the service has responded strongly and selflessly. Every member of the service has shared the same terrible and frightening experience as the rest of us; but, from strategic leadership through to performing the most basic but ‘essential for someone’ task, they have met those additional challenges admirably. I’m immensely proud and humbled by their response and delighted that the inspectors offer the formal recognition they deserve.”

The findings have been published in a letter on the HMICFRS website, which is available here.

A separate HMICFRS inspection in 2019 rated South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue ‘good’ across all three judgement criteria.

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Fire Authority approves response time arrangements

Councillors have approved a new set of response times for South Yorkshire’s fire service.

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue says it will still aim to attend every single 999 call as quickly as it possibly can, but that having a set of published response times will make it more accountable to local people, helps it to improve its service and bring them in line with most other fire and rescue services around the country.

A national inspection reported that it was undesirable for the service not to have a set of response standards, because it did not allow the service to measure its performance or give the public something in which they could hold the service to account.

The new response time arrangements take into account whether a person’s life is at risk, as well as the level of risk in different parts of the county based on historical incident data and other information.

Deputy Chief Fire Officer Chris Kirby said: “Adopting a more risk based approach allows us to ensure we are placing resources in the right places at the right time to best protect the communities we serve. This includes the work we do around preventing fires, protecting buildings and responding to incidents when they do occur.

“We will still aim to get to each emergency as fast as we can, but having a set of response times means we can measure our performance to ensure we are delivering the best possible service to our communities with the resources we have available to us.”

The proposal to introduce response time standards followed consultation with nearly 4,000 local people and a thorough analysis of the different risks faced by the fire service in South Yorkshire.

They form part of the service’s latest draft ‘Integrated Risk Management Plan’. This is a plan which explains the different risks in South Yorkshire how the fire service intends to address them with the resources it has available.

The service’s final plan was approved by members of the service’s governing Fire Authority on Monday (11 January).

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Fire service highlights relative’s story of Sheffield firefighter killed in 1940 blitz

South Yorkshire’s fire service is highlighting the story of a firefighting hero killed during the Sheffield Blitz- exactly 80 years after the events which took his life.

Frederick Parkes Spencer was the only permanent, full time Police Fireman – as they were then known – to have been killed when thousands of tons of explosives were dropped on Sheffield on the night of 12 and 13 December 1940.

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue has already honoured Frederick by naming one of the conference rooms at its Eyre Street headquarters in his memory.

Division Street drill yard

The room is just a stone’s throw from where Frederick lost his life on Charles Street, when the Empire Theatre received a direct hit from a German bomb.

One of his relatives, Anne Whiteley, has been researching the story of her mum’s cousin.

Anne said: “The night of the Blitz- a Thursday evening, 12 of December- had been half day closing, so Sheffield was busy, as it had always been a popular night for going out to the clubs, theatres, cinemas and dance halls. At the City Hall a dance was in progress. The entertainment at The Empire Theatre that evening was Henry Hall and his Orchestra”.

“The `take cover` warning was sounded at 7pm and enemy planes were soon overhead, attacking the city centre. Stationed and living at the service headquarters at Division Street, Frederick Parkes Spencer was on active duty that night, with all his colleagues”.

“Crews from Division Street, reinforced by part-time crews from Sheffield`s auxiliary fire stations were quickly in the city centre, and were attending the fires caused by the first wave of `marker` incendiaries when the second wave of enemy bombers arrived.”

Empire Theatre following the bombing

Over 500 telephone calls were received at the Fire Station Control Room. At 12.42 am on 13th December, Sheffield Police Fire Brigade requested assistance from Sheffield Transport Department and neighbouring fire brigades. In response, 50 pumps were sent from as far away as Birmingham, Manchester and York. Pumps also arrived from 20 towns.

The outside help eventually extended to over 70 pumps and 522 men. The most intense bombardment was between 10.30pm and 2.15am on 12 and 13 December, continuing for a total of nine hours.

Codenamed Operation Crucible by the Germans, these raids saw hundreds of Heinkel 111, Dornier 17 and Junker 88 drop many thousands of tons of explosives on Sheffield. Mains water supplies ran out quite quickly and needed to be relayed from public baths and even the river Don.

The Empire Theatre on Charles Street was hit by a bomb, and had received severe structural damage, was on fire, and in danger of collapse. Frederick was entering the theatre to try to check and clear the building of persons remaining inside, but he and Auxiliary Fireman Stanley Slack, age 29, who lived at Hermitage Street, Moorfoot, both died at the scene.

Anne said: “Frederick was 36 years old and the only permanent and full-time Police Fireman to die in the Blitz. Police Firemen had powers to arrest offenders and jail them if necessary, hence the cells which can still be seen at the National Emergency Services Museum, in Sheffield”.

“Frederick’s parents, and younger brother, Jack, were living at Bradway Road at the time. Jack Spencer, on leave from the Navy in Singapore, was only able to identify him from his brass helmet and the number `2` on his uniform, as he was so badly injured. This helmet and his posthumous award for bravery were later donated by Jack, and put on display at The National Emergency Services Museum”.

“However, Edna, his wife, had to vacate their flat at the Division Street headquarters and return to live with her parents close to Woodhouse cemetery where she buried Frederick,  his headstone simply stating `died as a result of enemy action`. Sheffield City Council Watch Committee of 19 December 1940 awarded her a pension of £78pa under the provisions of The Police Pensions Act 1921 and The Police and Fireman War Service Act 1939.”

Chief Fire Officer Alex Johnson, said: “As the events of World War II begin to fade from living memory, we believe it’s even more important than ever to tell the stories of people like Frederick Parkes Spencer and all the other men and women who lost their lives trying to protect Sheffield, its buildings and its people.”

Following The Sheffield Blitz further raids were mounted by The Luftwaffe. However, none of them matched the intensity and loss of life that occurred on 12/13 and 15 December 1940.

You can find out more about the contribution of the work of firefighters during the Sheffield Blitz by searching The Sheffield Fire Brigade website edited by Edward Mullins, and visiting the National Emergency Services Museum on West Bar in the city.

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