Hundreds made safer thanks to fire-funded sprinkler project

Some of the most vulnerable people in Barnsley are now safer than ever in their homes, thanks to sprinklers that have been part-funded by the South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Authority.

In total 163 flats have been fitted with the life-saving devices across six independent living complexes – all of which are run by Berneslai Homes.

The housing provider was awarded £240,000 from the Fire Authority’s sprinkler fund to match fund the project – which now means 200 more people have the highest level of fire protection available.

A number of personal protection systems and kitchen suppression units – which detect and extinguish fires with a fine water mist – have also been match funded by the Authority.

The purchasing of these extra devices, which will be installed in certain homes where tenants are identified as extremely vulnerable, demonstrates the service’s commitment to safeguarding the most vulnerable in South Yorkshire.

“Sprinklers are a reliable and cost-effective way of stopping fires from growing and spreading,” said South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue’s sprinkler advocate, Roger Brason.

“In most cases, they actually put them out completely, so we’re really pleased that all of these homes have had them installed and even more pleased that we’ve been able to help provide some personal protection systems to help safeguard the most vulnerable.”

The sprinklers were fitted within the following independent living complexes:

  • Church Street Close, Thurnscoe
  • Hudson Haven, Wombwell
  • King Street Flats, Barnsley
  • Pendon House, Penistone
  • Saville Court, Hoyland
  • Shipcroft, Wombwell

Berneslai Homes’ Fire Safety Officer, Kerry Storrar, added: “Thank you to South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Authority for their funding to fit these life saving devices.

“The sprinklers give our tenants the highest level of protection and over the coming year we’re hoping to fit sprinklers in other buildings.”

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Authority’s sprinkler fund forms part of the Stronger Safer Communities Reserve that is made up of money set aside from the Authority’s reserves.

More information is available on www.syfire.gov.uk/business-advice/sprinklers-2/.

Fire deaths prompt new fire safety campaign

A new fire safety campaign is being launched across the county today, Monday 1 April, following a series of recent fatal fires involving people over 60-years-old.

As part of the effort, South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue is asking people to find the time to go and see their older relatives who, according to statistics, may be at a higher risk of fire.

The service has published a ‘grandparent check’ which people can use to assess whether or not the older people in their lives – be it family, friends or neighbours – would benefit from a home safety check from local firefighters.

These visits, which are totally free, involve fire and rescue staff visiting properties to offer safety advice and fit smoke alarms. They also allow officers to identify risks and put things in place to make residents safer in their homes.

A list of things that people can do themselves, to help safeguard their older friends and relatives, has also been published.

“The motivation behind this campaign is really simple – in the last six weeks we’ve had a number of fire deaths that have involved people over 60-years-old,” said Area Manager Steve Helps, head of the joint police and fire community safety department.

“On their own these incidents are really tragic and when put alongside figures from our recent history we can see, quite clearly, that as people get older their fire risk increases.

“This is due to a range of factors – be it living alone, having limited mobility or a hearing impairment or taking medication that causes drowsiness – that can make older people more likely to have a fire and less able to escape.

“Fortunately there are things that we can all do to help. We’ve published some advice on simple things that people can do themselves to help make their loved ones safer. Then, if people still feel like they would benefit from a home safety check, the form on our website only takes a matter of minutes to complete.

“We can only help the people we know about and therefore rely on family and friends to get in touch with us. We know everyone is really busy but a quick visit makes a huge difference.”

Advice for people checking up on their loved ones includes:

  • Make sure they have working smoke alarms
  • Do they smoke? Ensure they’ve got a proper ash tray
  • Get them a working phone that stays with them all the time
  • Speak to them about what to do in the event of a fire
  • Help them de-clutter, particularly their exit routes

Find The Time follows on from South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue’s ‘Fire Safe Together’ campaign that was launched by South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue in 2017. This initiative urged partner agencies to work together in order to identify people who may be at risk and is being re-launched alongside this latest campaign.

Statistics show that over half the people who have died in accidental house fires, across South Yorkshire, since 2013 were over 60-years-old.

More information is available at www.syfire.gov.uk/findthetime.

Fire service proposals to be considered by Authority

Fire service proposals to meet a multi-million pound financial shortfall by reducing the number of firefighters on a fire engine from five to four will be considered by its governing Authority.

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue says the only alternative to making the change- which has already been adopted by many other services nationwide- is to reduce the speed of its 999 response during the night time period from up to half of its fire stations.

The organisation faces cost pressures of up to £4 million, due to no longer being able to use a way of staffing fire stations called Close Proximity Crewing which and because it may have to meet a significant, national shortfall in pension contributions.

Deputy Chief Fire Officer Alex Johnson, said: “We’d rather not make any changes at all, but have a duty to match our resources to local risk and to manage the service in a financially responsible way.

“We face cost pressures of up to £4 million and the extent of the savings required is inevitably going to mean changes to the way we provide our 999 service to the public.

“We think it is better to reduce the number of firefighters on a fire engine, than it is to slow down our response times by reducing the number of fire engines which are immediately available.

“Our fire engines already attend incidents with four firefighters about a third of the time- and many other UK fire services already ride with four as a norm.”

All fire and rescue authorities must provide a plan which sets out the steps they will take and resources they need to improve public safety, reduce fires and save lives. This is known as an Integrated Risk Management Plan (IRMP). It must be publicly available, reflect consultation with stakeholders and demonstrate the most up-to-date analysis of local risk.

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue’s draft IRMP will be considered by Fire Authority members at its meeting on Monday 8 April. If approved, the plans will then be consulted on with members of the public.

Find The Time campaign – grandparent check

How safe are your older relatives?

For our latest campaign we’re asking people to find the time to visit the older people in their lives and go through our Grandparent Check, which asks a series of questions including whether they live alone, smoke, need a walking aid and use emollient creams.

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Our statistics show that fire risk can increase with age and, if you answer yes to any of the questions above in relation to an older friend, neighbour or relative, they may be at higher risk and be eligible for a free home safety check by our staff. Check today by filling out our home safety check referral form, below.

In the meantime, help make them safer by:

  • Making sure they have working smoke alarms
  • Ensuring they’ve got a proper ash tray, if they smoke
  • Getting them a working phone that stays with them all the time
  • Speaking to them about what to do in the event of a fire
  • Helping them de-clutter, particularly their exit routes

Home Safety Check referral form

The form below collects some personal information, which we will only use for the purposes described. You can find out more about how we collect and store personal information here. 

If you’re filling this form for someone else please ensure you enter their details on their behalf. Ensure that the contact number provided can be used to organise a visit.

Local school children the stars of new International Women’s Day video

Anyone can be anything – that’s the message in a new heart-warming film from South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue (SYFR) today, Friday 8 March.

You can watch the video here.

Produced in celebration of International Women’s Day, the video shows what happened when three female fire service staff spent a morning with year three schoolchildren.

The kids were asked what they would like to be when they grow up, and were asked to guess what jobs their guests did, before being shocked and inspired when they found out their real occupations.

Filmed at Mosborough Primary School, in Sheffield, the aim of the video is to highlight the range of career options within the fire and rescue service – and encourage local women to register their interest in careers with SYFR.

Deputy Chief Fire Officer, Alex Johnson, said that the film is part of a wider effort to change perceptions around the fire service being a male dominated organisation.

“We’ve come a long way in recent years but there’s still more to do – you only have to look at the fact I’m one of only four women in the country who hold such a similar senior position, and the figure that still only five per cent of firefighters are women, to see that,” she added.

“For so long the image of the fire service that is portrayed in films and the media is of men rushing into burning buildings, but the actual reality is so far from that. We do much more community and youth engagement work now where we need a variety of skills and people that are representative of South Yorkshire’s population.

“Of course our staff do go into burning buildings but this isn’t just men, we have both male and female firefighters who go through the same rigorous testing and training process to be able to ride on one of our fire engines.

“We also have loads of amazing women working in support roles and our control room, too, and International Women’s Day provides a perfect opportunity to celebrate the work that they do – and also try to inspire more women to think about a career with us.”

The video, which has been unveiled this morning, stars Bronte Jones, a firefighter at Rotherham fire station, Sharon ‘Shaz’ Bailey, a Maintenance Operative & Driver and Amanpreet Kaur, an ICT Applications Developer.

Bronte, who graduated from her training course in December last year, is a former Mosborough Primary School pupil.

She said: “My dad works in the fire service so I’ve grown up in the fire family. I’ve wanted to be a firefighter for as long as I can remember so passing my training course at the end of the year was a dream come true. Afterwards I just thought wow, I’ve actually done it!

“There’s a lot of common misconceptions around firefighting but, man or woman, you only pass the training course – which is tough and physically demanding – if you are fit and strong enough to do the job properly.

“Of course there are times when it gets hard but, like I said to the kids at school, if you fully commit to it, work hard and maintain your standards, then you can do it – regardless of your gender. Personally I think it is the best job in the world, it’s so rewarding.

“From day one of the recruits course you are part of a team – you have the support of your fellow trainees and then the experienced instructors who guide you along the way. Then you get to station and, even though I’ve only been at Rotherham for a few months, my crew have already become my work family. Together your colleagues pass on all the knowledge they have gained over the years to shape you into the best firefighter you can be.”

Anybody interested in a career with South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue can register their interest, to receive future job notifications, at www.syfire.gov.uk/find-a-job/register-your-interest/.

Firefighter course is biggest in recent years

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue’s training and development centre is currently playing host to the biggest group of firefighter recruits in the organisation’s recent history.

The 17 trainee firefighters, who are currently on an intense 13-week long course, are now half way through their fourth week.

So far they’ve had a packed agenda that has included fitness tests, advanced first aid training and an introduction to standard firefighting equipment, such as hoses, ladders and pumps.

And the hard work has continued this week, with their current theme being road traffic collisions and vehicle rescue techniques.

Normally courses at the service’s Handsworth-based training facility only cater for 12 trainees at a time, however a combination of high levels of interest and good quality candidates has led to a larger group this time.

Once these 17 trainees finish their course they will be sent out onto stations across South Yorkshire as firefighters in development.

“It has been great to introduce these new trainees into our organisation over the last few weeks for the start of what we hope will be long and rewarding careers with us,” said Area Manager Andy Strelczenie, head of emergency response.

“Ahead of them lies two rigorous and challenging months as they work through various modules – including working at height, casualty handling, breathing apparatus and live fire training.

“They will also be doing a week’s worth of fire prevention activity within their local communities which, of course, is a really big part of a modern day firefighter’s role.

“I look forward to seeing their progress over the coming weeks and have every confidence that they will go on to help make South Yorkshire a safer and stronger place to live, work and visit.”

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

Service makes life-saving ‘register your appliance’ plea

It is now quicker and easier than ever to register large household appliances, such as washing machines and freezers, according to South Yorkshire firefighters.

The claim comes on ‘Register My Appliance Day’ – a national push that is being supported by South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue as part of its latest ‘Protect Your Pets’ electrical fire safety campaign.

The initiative, which was launched in November last year, has been urging people to keep their pets and property safe by not buying ‘cheap and dodgy’ electrical items, turning appliances off at night and when they’re out and, lastly, not overloading plug sockets.

And with the campaign soon coming to an end the service is now shifting its focus to appliance registration – with figures showing that less than a third of white goods are registered after being purchased and that two thirds of people have never registered an older appliance they may have bought a couple of years ago, or been given by family or friends.

Station Manager Matt Gillatt, who works within the service’s community safety team, said that the few minutes it takes to register an appliance is time well spent.

“Registering an appliance only takes a few minutes, but it means that manufacturers are able to contact you if they think that something may be wrong with your white goods,” he said.

“Many of the incidents we go to include things like washing machines, and tumble dryers, that have had a repairable, common fault, but due to the fact they haven’t been registered the owner knows nothing about it – until their kitchen has been destroyed by fire.

“The good news, though, is that the majority of brands let you register appliances that are up to 12-years-old so it isn’t too late to do it and help keep your family, and of course pets, safe.”

Only two months ago, on Sunday 17 November, crews from Doncaster and Edlington attended a house fire on Anchorage Lane, in Sprotbrough, which was caused by a faulty washing machine that had been left on overnight.

Following the fire, Watch Manager Gary Ridgeway, who was the incident commander on the night, has called for people to make sure washing machines, tumble dryers, dishwashers and other electrical appliances are switched off overnight, as well as making sure they are properly registered.

He said: “This incident started after the occupant got in at night and turned the washing machine on before he went to bed. There was a fault in the washing machine, that they didn’t know about, which started the fire, filled the kitchen with smoke and caused a significant amount of damage to the property.

“At 2am in the morning, the two people who lived at the house would have had nowhere to go, had it not have been for their neighbours. Fortunately the smoke alarms sounded and they were able to get out, so the outcome wasn’t too bad.

“This is a serious issue for us, though. The cost of a few minutes’ worth of time is nothing compared to the lasting damage that comes with a fire – be it injury to you, your family or a pet, a kitchen that is completely destroyed or something far worse.”

White goods can be registered on the Register My Appliance web portal, which has been developed by AMDEA (The Association of Manufacturers of Domestic Appliances) and can be found at www.registermyappliance.org.uk.

The portal was designed to make it quicker and easier than ever before to register appliances, providing access to over 60 leading brands and the relevant manufacturers.