Fire service wants public to have their say on 999 response times

South Yorkshire’s fire service wants people to have their say on its work – including how quickly it should respond to different types of emergency.

We’ve today launched a consultation on how it delivers its service, with the results used to help plan its services over the next few years.

You can complete the consultation survey here

Amongst the questions it wants people’s views on are the expected response times it should set for different incidents.

Currently the service simply aims to get to all emergencies as fast as it can, every time. A national inspection reported that it was undesirable for the service not to have a set of response standards though.

Fire chiefs say that setting response times based on risk- such as whether someone’s life is at risk or not, or the level of risk in a particular geographic area, is preferable and would bring it in line with most other services around the country.

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. We really want to hear from people as to whether they think this is the right approach.”

The consultation will also ask people for their views on the quality of service and value for money SYFR provides taxpayers, and what people think its priorities should be over the next few years.

The results of the consultation will help to inform the service’s next Integrated Risk Management Plan. This is a plan which considers the different risks in South Yorkshire and how the fire service intends to address them with the resources it has available.

A draft plan will be submitted to the service’s governing Fire Authority in September, before further consultation with the public.

The plan is not expected to propose any cuts to firefighters, fire engines or fire stations.

The best way for people to have their say is by visiting


Works starts on new Barnsley fire station

Work has started this week on a brand new, energy efficient station for firefighters in Barnsley.

The existing 60-year-old, three-storey building on Broadway, Kingstone is being demolished after it had reached the end of its operational life. It’s being replaced with a new two storey, three bay facility on the same site.

A separate multi-use facility is planned 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.

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

Firefighters will be housed in a temporary facility off-site whilst construction of the new building takes place.

The investment follows a study last year which looked at all options including a multi-million pound refurbishment which wasn’t deemed viable.

It also forms part of a wider, short to medium term approved plan to invest in the fire service’s property estate, with around a further £8 million set aside from its reserves to modernise and improve its estate over the next two years.

The investments are being made now, because of uncertainty of how much money will be available to make substantial investments like this in the future if the service’s finances continue to be squeezed.

Director of Support Services Stuart Booth, said: “One of our aspirations is to make the service 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 real and tangible progress towards this. We considered refurbishing the existing site, but this didn’t provide best value for money and it didn’t provide the best long term facility for our staff.”

Fire Authority Chair Cllr Robert Taylor, said: “Barnsley Fire Station is the last of the traditional and imposing divisional stations. It has been part of the landscape for over half a century and will hold many fond memories for all those who have served there and the people of Barnsley alike. It is now however time to move forward and this exciting new development will offer a 21st century fire station and facilities that will enhance both the working environment for crews and further develop the already strong community links that exist in Barnsley.”

Bond Bryan acted as architects for the project, Turner and Townsend are providing project and cost management support and JF Finnegan have been appointed as contractors.


South Yorkshire amongst winners as national awards recognise women in the fire service champions

Amazing staff at the heart of championing the role of women in the fire service have been recognised as part of a major national awards scheme.

Winners of the fire sector’s ‘Women In The Fire Service’ awards include both men and women who have developed, encouraged and reinforced the role of women in the sector.

Women continue to be underrepresented in the UK fire and rescue service, with only six per cent of operational firefighters being female.

Amongst the winners at this year’s awards, which were organised by Women In The Fire Service UK, is Tim Pope from South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue.

The Organisation Development Advisor beat off competition from nine other nominees to secure the ‘Men As Allies’ award at the Women In The Fire Service annual awards.

The award recognises men working in the fire and rescue service who work to promote equality, diversity and inclusion in the UK fire sector.

As part of his role, Tim has led the service’s positive action work to inspire a more diverse range of local people to consider a role in the fire and rescue service.

Jules Kind, WFS Chair & Awards Panel judge said “ Tim is living proof that it doesn’t matter how senior you are or what role you do to be able to pack a punch and make a real difference. Being a male ally in male dominated culture can be tricky, but is such an important part of changing culture, tackling inclusion and takes the spotlight away from those who are new and/or different who are still finding their voice.”

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue’s Rebecca Savin and Fleur Holland were also shortlisted for awards, in the ‘rising star’ and ‘shining light’ categories respectively.

Established as a self-help group, WFS UK is a volunteer-led, non-profit organisation managed by a board and an elected national committee of women fire professionals. It specialises in delivering training and development events aimed at women. These events are opportunities to network, learn new skills, and mix with peers from all areas across the service.

WFS provides information and advice to women who are contemplating a career in the fire service, speaks in schools and careers fairs and at fire and rescue service equality, diversity and inclusion events.


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.”


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.”


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


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.


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.


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.