Firefighters support ambulance service

Yorkshire Ambulance Service welcomes additional COVID-19 support from fire and rescue colleagues.

Firefighter colleagues from the region’s four fire and rescue services will be joining Yorkshire Ambulance Service to provide additional support during the current coronavirus pandemic.

The 48 volunteers (12 from each fire and rescue service – North Yorkshire, West Yorkshire, South Yorkshire and Humberside) will be carrying out tasks including driving ambulances and other support roles.

This move follows a recent agreement between the National Employers, National Fire Chiefs Council and the Fire Brigades Union to support local authorities and the NHS.

Our staff training with Yorkshire Ambulance staff

Commenting on this development, Nick Smith, Executive Director of Operations at Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust, said: “We have always enjoyed a close working relationship with our fire and rescue service colleagues through the many incidents we attend jointly on a daily basis and through our collaborative approach to large scale emergency situations.

“During this unprecedented period, and arguably the greatest challenge the NHS has ever faced, we are extremely grateful for the additional support being provided by the region’s fire and rescue services. It means that we will have greater flexibility and resilience in our approach over the coming weeks to ensure patients receive the care they need.”

South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Chief Fire Officer Alex Johnson commented: “As a service we are here to make South Yorkshire safer and stronger. We could not be more willing, and able, to help out in any way we can during these extremely challenging times.

“Our firefighters are trained to an extremely high standard. They have a huge amount of experience in driving blue light vehicles and are very well respected in their local communities. I’m hugely proud of them all and know they will do a fantastic job when called upon.”

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Shout- stories of fire service life savers

In South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue’s first podcast series, firefighters and control room staff from across the service talk about lifesaving incidents they’ve dealt with. They also talk about their careers, the teams they are proud to be a part of and what it feels like to have helped to save a life.

Kirsty

In our debut episode, we meet Kirsty Wright- a full time firefighter at Birley Moor fire station in Sheffield and an on-call firefighter at Stocksbridge fire station in the city.

Kirsty- a Watch Manager- describes what it’s like to lead a crew of firefighters and the teamwork involved in responding to emergency incidents.

Plus, hear her describe the moment she helped to save a life, when she gave first aid to a woman who had been carried out of a burning building.

Adam

Say hello to Adam Dilkes- a crew manager at Rotherham fire station.

Adam has been a firefighter with South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue for 12 years.

We speak to him about what it feels like to attend an incidents where someone’s life was at
risk, how it feels to come away from something as dramatic as that and what it means to him
to be in a job where he can make a real difference.

He also talks us through an incident where he and his crew rescued a man and their dogs
from a serious house fire in Rotherham.

Joanna

For our next episode, we speak to Joanna Hoare. She’s wanted to be a firefighter since the age of six and finally realised her dream when she joined the service seventeen years ago.

She’s served at Mansfield Road, Central and Lowedges fire stations before transferring to Derbyshire Fire & Rescue earlier this year.

Joanna describes an incident where she helped to save the life of someone who was going in and out of consciousness having suffered severe smoke inhalation following a house fire.

Julia

This week we speak to Julia Tonks- a member of the service’s 999 control room.

Julia speaks about the crucial role control operators play in delivering life-saving fire survival guidance to people who ring 999.

She also describes a specific incident when she gave advice to a woman trapped in a burning building. She talks about what she said, how she says it and what it feels like to save a life by being at the other end of a phone.

Gary

This week we hear from firefighter and training instructor Gary Devonport.

He talks us through a dramatic rescue from water he helped with whilst he was off duty in Wales.

He describes the situation he stumbled upon and how the quick thinking of him and his team helped to save a life.

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New Deputy Chief Fire Officer for South Yorkshire

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

Chris Kirby was appointed following a selection process which included a written application, leadership team presentation, interview by staff group and trade union representatives and panel interview with members of the Fire Authority.

Barnsley-born Chris will join South Yorkshire later this spring from West Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Service, which he first joined as a firefighter in 1998.

The married father-of-three’s roles in West Yorkshire included acting as a breathing apparatus instructor, commanding the Kirklees district and taking charge of the service’s response and prevention work. He also led the service’s business fire safety work in the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster.

The former Wath Comprehensive School pupil also represented Rotherham at waterpolo for many years, winning the British Championships in 2008.

Fire Authority Chair Cllr Robert Taylor, said: “This was a really competitive process, but the whole panel was greatly impressed by Chris’ forward thinking and people centred approach. We are proud of the South Yorkshire’s reputation as being amongst the leading fire and rescue service’s in the country and we are confident this appointment will help the service to continually improve its service to the public.”

Chris said, “I am really pleased to be joining South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue. To be able to serve the communities where I grew up is a huge privilege and I look forward to meeting the people that make the service what it is. I have always been impressed with the people I have met and I hope to support the service in being a great place to work and to deliver an outstanding service to the communities of South Yorkshire.”

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Sprinklers help save chip pan fire couple in Doncaster tower block

Sprinklers retrofitted in a high-rise block of flats in Doncaster helped to save the lives of two people, fire chiefs say.

A chip pan caught fire in one of the flats at Hatfield House in the borough at around 5.10am on Friday (21 February).

But fire sprinklers activated and suppressed the blaze, saving the flat and two people who were asleep inside.

Damage to the flat was limited to minor smoke and water damage, whilst the occupants suffered minor smoke inhalation.

Doncaster, Edlington and Adwick firefighters attended the incident. They worked hard to alert the residents to the fire, lead them to safety and make the scene safe. They left the incident just before 7am.

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Head of Emergency Response Andy Strelczenie, said: “This incident is another example of how fire sprinklers can be a cost effective way of making certain types of residential dwellings safer – they stop fires from spreading, put them out quickly, save lives and have a long working life span.

“We’re proud of the reputation we’ve built nationally as a leading fire and rescue service for our long standing advocacy of the benefits of fire sprinklers.”

Arturo Gulla, Director of Property Services at St Leger Homes, said: “We take fire safety and prevention in our buildings incredibly seriously, and this incident shows just how effective the sprinkler systems we installed with funding from Doncaster Council and the support of SYFRS are in reducing fire damage, and more importantly protecting the lives of people in our high-rise buildings.

“We have installed fully operational sprinkler systems in all nine of the high-rise buildings we manage across the borough, and we are proud to be one of the first housing organisations in the country to achieve this.

“Our best wishes go to the people affected by this fire and we will do everything we can to support them as they recover from this experience.”

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue has provided more than £1 million in match-funding fire sprinkler projects over the last five years. The service spent the money fitting fire sprinklers in around 650 flats across the county in a bid to prompt owners of accommodation for mostly vulnerable residents to consider fire sprinklers as a long term measure to keep their tenants safe.

Fire sprinklers in residential buildings remain topical with the second phase of the Grenfell Tower inquiry now underway and a review of building fire safety regulations ongoing

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Firefighters rescue man from Thorne canal

A big well done to Thorne White Watch who recently rescued a man who had fallen into a canal.

Fortunately, a passer-by noticed him in the dark and rushed to his aid. He managed to raise the alarm and keep hold of the man in the water until our firefighters arrived on the scene.

The crew took immediate action to manually lift him out, as it was apparent he was suffering from the effects of hypothermia. They provided him with first aid and wrapped him in blankets to raise his temperature until an ambulance arrived on the scene.

This incident happened just before 3am on Saturday (15 February) near West Street in Thorne.

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Hundreds safer for decades thanks to £1 million fire service spending on sprinklers

Fire chiefs say hundreds of high-risk homes will be safer for decades to come, thanks to more than £1 million spent on fire sprinkler projects in the last five years.

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue spent the money fitting fire sprinklers in around 650 flats across the county in a bid to prompt owners of accommodation for mostly vulnerable residents to consider fire sprinklers as a long term measure to keep their tenants safe.

More than 20 separate projects were awarded funding, with most of the money allocated match-funded by the building owners themselves.

An early beneficiary of the funding was the St Wilfrid’s Centre in Sheffield. Fire Sprinklers were installed in a new, 20-bed residential project which houses adults with complex needs.

High profile projects in Rotherham include a scheme to protect children with severe disabilities at a South Yorkshire Housing Association. The scheme was awarded £28,000 to retrofit fire sprinklers in a 15 flat facility on John Street in the town.

Funding for social housing developments in Barnsley means more than 100 Barnsley Council owned properties are protected.

Churchfields Sheltered housing, part of Berneslai Homes, was awarded funding for the retrofitting of automatic fire sprinklers in flats which mostly house older people.

Money was also spent to retrofit fire sprinklers at a high-rise block of flats in Doncaster- a decade after a similar scheme at Callow Mount in Sheffield highlighted the ease with which older tower blocks can be fitted with the potentially life-saving devices.

Assistant Chief Fire Officer Steve Helps, said: “Fire Sprinkler systems can have a life span of well over 50 years, meaning this money will help to keep thousands people safe in these buildings for decades to come.

“Importantly, we’ve targeted our funding at properties where people are at a greater risk of fire for a range of factors including age, disability, mental health or substance misuse issues. Some of the schemes we’re most proud to have supported, are actually amongst the smallest, with relatively small amounts of money helping to protect small numbers of very vulnerable people in premises owned by charities and other organisations which wouldn’t ordinarily be able to afford to pay for projects of this nature on their own.”

Fire sprinklers in residential buildings remain topical with the second phase of the Grenfell Tower inquiry now underway and a review of building fire safety regulations ongoing.

The Government announced it was considering lowering the threshold from 30 metres to 11 metres tall for fire sprinklers to be installed in new build high rise buildings.

“Fire Sprinklers are a cost effective way of making businesses and residential dwellings safer – they stop fires from spreading, put them out quickly, save lives and have a long working life span. We’re proud of the reputation we’ve built nationally as a leading fire and rescue service for our long standing advocacy of the benefits of fire sprinklers. The projects we’ve funded are just another example of our work in this area,” said Steve.

Money for all of the funded projects came from South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Authority’s Stronger Safer Communities Reserve, which used money set aside from the Authority’s reserves.

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Inspection rates service ‘good’ across all three areas

An inspection report which rated South Yorkshire’s fire and rescue service as ‘good’ across all three judgement criteria has been welcomed by fire chiefs.

Inspectors found that South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue:

  • is ‘good’ in effectively keeping people safe and secure from fire and other risks
  • is ‘good’ in operating efficiently
  • is ‘good’ at looking after its people

The service was also rated as good in ten out of eleven sub categories in everything from how it responds to and prevents fires and other emergencies, to how well trained its staff are and how well it promotes fairness and diversity amongst its workforce.

This places South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue amongst the top rated services in the country.

Inspectors have also identified some areas for improvement, including how well it secures an affordable way of managing risk.

Chief Fire Officer James Courtney, said: “The report is an excellent indication of the quality of service we deliver to our communities and the hard work and dedication of our staff. We’re particularly pleased that our work to improve the culture of the organisation for the people who work here has been recognised.

“Of course there will be areas for improvement and under the leadership of our incoming Chief Fire Officer, I know that the service will properly consider and put in place measures to address all of these, as we seek to continually improve our service to the people of South Yorkshire.”

Fire Authority Chair Cllr Robert Taylor, said: “The inspection report makes very encouraging reading and duly recognises South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue as a strongly performing service. This is very reassuring to the Fire and Rescue Authority and more importantly should further demonstrate to our communities the drive to keep them safe from harm.

“It is important to stress this result has only been achieved through strong leadership, management and the dedicated effort of the whole service. As positive as this result is, I know there will be no complacency and the ambition to consistently improve will continue.”

The report follows an inspection by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) earlier this year.

It is the first time South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue has been inspected since HMICS extended its remit to include inspections of fire and rescue services in 2017.

The inspectorates assesses and reports on the efficiency, effectiveness and people management qualities of the 45 fire and rescue services in England. Services are rated either ‘inadequate’, ‘requires improvement’, ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ under each of these.

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National collaboration award for fire and police safety team

A joint fire and police safety team has won a major national award.

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue and South Yorkshire Police’s joint community safety department won the award for Best Emergency Services Collaboration at the Excellence in Fire & Emergency Awards in London.

The accolade comes little more than a year after fire and police community safety staff were brought together to form a fresh team with the shared aim of keeping people safe.

High profile activities the team undertakes include home safety checks, crime prevention visits and youth engagement activities such as the award-winning Princes Trust Team Programme, which has helped to transform the lives of more than 200 young people in two years.

The teams also operate the Lifewise Centre which is an interactive safety centre in Hellaby, Rotherham. It opened in 2011 to deliver education packages to more than 20,000 local people every year, including nearly every Year 6 pupil in South Yorkshire.

Head of the joint community safety department Simon Dunker, said: “South Yorkshire Police and South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue’s community safety teams came together last year as part of a flagship collaboration project, which brilliantly illustrates the benefits of working together for a shared purpose.

“The joint department has evolved each organisation’s thinking when it comes to their community safety work, guided by shared strategic objectives of preventing emergencies, reducing demand and releasing capacity to do more for our communities.

“This award is timely recognition for the work staff at both organisations have put in to make the department happen.”

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Fire service to change attendance at business false alarms

The fire service will free up time for firefighters by no longer attending automatic fire alarms in commercial buildings like offices and warehouses unless it’s a confirmed blaze.

Currently South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue automatically sends fire engines to premises the moment a fire alarm goes off and the signal is passed, by a receiving centre, onto 999 control operators.

But 97% of the 3,457 automatic alarms the service attended in business premises in the last three years turned out to be false alarms. Fire crews wasted more than 1,000 hours investigating the cause of those false alarms- time which could have been better spent training, working in the community or being available to attend other, genuine incidents.

The change brings South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue in line with other services around the country, plus the position of the National Fire Chiefs Council on automatic fire alarms in commercial buildings. It will not apply to sleeping risk premises like universities, hotels, hospitals, heritage sites or high rise flats though- with fire engines still being automatically turned out to automatic alarms at those premises.

Area Manager Andy Strelczenie, said: “False alarms make up a massive proportion of the incidents firefighters are mobilised too. Whilst we will always attend incidents when our services are definitely required, our frequent attendance at false alarms disrupts training and increases road risk to firefighters rushing on blue lights to incidents which later turn out to be false alarms.

“It’s long been the responsibility of businesses to ensure their alarm systems are regularly checked and maintained properly and it’s important they do this before the change we’ve outlined comes into force.”

As well as responding to 999 calls, the fire service is responsible for enforcing fire safety laws.

Top safety tips for businesses include:

Keep fire escapes clear– make sure extra stock is stored away from fire escapes, ensuring staff and customers can get out safely in the event of a fire
Check alarm systems– regular checks and maintenance help to eliminate automatic false alarms and ensure the alarm is working if required
Complete a fire risk assessment– not only will it help to reduce the risk of suffering a fire in the first place, it will help make sure you comply with fire safety laws
Sprinklers– consider installing sprinklers, but make sure you leave a good distance between your stock and sprinkler heads

The change was approved by the service’s governing Fire Authority in June. It will come into force from 6 January 2020.

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Fire officer thanked for life saving off duty CPR

Station Manager Nick Abbott has been recognised for life saving cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) he delivered to a heart attack victim in Sheffield.

Nick was off-duty and training at a gym in the city before Christmas last year when a man in his 40s went into cardiac arrest.

He delivered CPR until paramedics from Yorkshire Ambulance Service arrived on the scene.

Paramedics said Nick’s quick thinking contributed to the man going on to make a full recovery.

Nick was presented with a letter from the Chief Fire Officer thanking him for his efforts.

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