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.

Staff fund and host Christmas dinner for rough sleepers

Rough sleepers from in and around Sheffield were served a three course Christmas dinner today (Wednesday 12 December) at South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue’s headquarters.

The meal, which consisted of turkey and all the trimmings, was paid for by fire service staff and cooked by the service’s chef. Guests were then served a syrup sponge pudding.

The attendees ate in the service’s café facility, which is shared with Age UK Sheffield, after being invited in by Framework’s Street Outreach team. The leftover food from the event has since been sent to the Salvation Army who will be using it to provide their beneficiaries with a Christmas dinner this evening.

Area Manager Tony Carlin, who has led on getting the meal set up, said: “Working with our partners on the Weather Watch scheme has really brought home for us the issue of homelessness in Sheffield and we, with the support of our staff, wanted to give some rough sleepers at least one hot meal this Christmas.

“For us this is a small gesture but hopefully it will go a long way. Everyone who attended the meal was extremely grateful and, whilst it was great for them to get a dinner, the important thing is that our partner agencies were on hand to offer support too.”

Members of staff based at the service’s headquarters donated £5 each to sponsor one meal for a rough sleeper – with any excess money going towards the Red Cross Weather Watch scheme.

Following the event, the service has set up a JustGiving page – with all proceeds going towards Framework Housing Association. This can be found here.

“We’ve had a lot of people asking us how they can help, so we’ve set up a JustGiving page as part of this event. This means that anybody who wants to contribute can do so by donating a sum of their choice, however big or small,” added Tony.

If you’re worried about someone sleeping rough please call Framework on 0800 066 5358 or Text SOTS to 80800 followed by your message, or visit www.streetlink.org.uk.

Electrical safety quiz – how safe are you?

How safe are you when it comes to electrics in your home?

How safe are your pets?

As part of our Protect Your Pets campaign we’ve designed the below quiz to see how much you know about electrical fire safety.

Have a go for your chance to win one of a great prize collection – including tickets to Yorkshire Wildlife Park, tickets to the Grenoside Pantomime Group’s Aladdin performance and a portable bluetooth speaker worth £35.

We will draw the prize winners on Wednesday 19 December. If you’ve won, we’ll be in touch.

#ProtectYourPets - Electrical Fire Safety Quiz

  • This form collects some personal information - which will be used to contact the randomly selected quiz winner and subsequently be destroyed. By submitting the form you are agreeing for your data to be used in this way.

Service opens doors to rough sleepers

Up to eight people will be able to stay overnight at South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue’s (SYFR) Headquarters, on Eyre Street in Sheffield, this winter – with British Red Cross volunteers on hand to welcome them.

This is thanks to a partnership between various agencies – including Sheffield City Council, British Red Cross, Framework and South Yorkshire Police – and comes into action when the council activates its Severe Weather Emergency Protocol when the weather gets very cold.

Known locally as Weather Watch, the scheme offers somewhere safe and warm for rough sleepers.

Area Manager Tony Carlin said: “Helping people in need and saving lives is core to our mission as a fire service, so it makes perfect sense for us to provide emergency accommodation during particularly severe weather periods.

“This initiative provides comfort, warmth and shelter for rough sleepers and the homeless and is a clear example of public agencies working together to help some of the most vulnerable people in our area.”

Anyone who is homeless, or at risk of losing their accommodation, can call Sheffield City Council on 0114 273 6306 during office hours, or 0800 7311 689 outside office hours.

When Weather Watch kicks in, SYFR will be opening the doors at ‘Central Headquarters’ on the coldest nights at 9pm and places are allocated by contacting Sheffield City Council on the numbers above or by calling into First Point at Howden House.

Staff at HQ will link people up to the Council’s Out of Hours Service when places are full, so that warmth and shelter can be found elsewhere.

Richard Crow, British Red Cross emergency response officer for South Yorkshire said: “We have responded to a request from Sheffield City Council alongside South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue to support at this scheme providing emergency shelter to the homeless in the city. British Red Cross volunteers and staff will be on hand to provide practical and emotional support, including the provision of hot food and drinks, and signposting service users to longer-term support where needed.

“The Red Cross responds to an emergency every four hours across the UK, working with partners to help people in crisis.”

If you’re worried about someone sleeping rough please call Framework on 0800 066 5358 or Text SOTS to 80800 followed by your message, or visit www.streetlink.org.uk. You can also call the Weather Watch numbers on someone’s behalf (0114 273 6306 or 0800 7311 689 outside office hours) but please do this when you’re with the person so they can provide extra information.

Councillor Jim, Steinke, Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods and Community Safety at Sheffield City Council, said: “The fire station gives us extra places for people at risk of sleeping rough on the coldest nights, and is somewhere safe and warm.

“I’m incredibly grateful to the fire service and the British Red Cross, and all their staff and volunteers, for working with us on this.

“Homelessness is a growing problem and extra duties placed on councils means increased demand for services. But through this partnership work we’re able to offer more help to more people, which is what we want as a city.”

For more information about help for rough sleepers visit www.sheffield.gov.uk or www.helpushelp.uk.

Pets the focus of new fire safety campaign

Stop putting your animals at risk – that’s the message from firefighters, and a number of special guests,  as they launch a new safety campaign aiming to drive down electrical fires across South Yorkshire.

Figures released by South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue today, to coincide with Black Friday, show there have been more than 350 electrical house fires in the county over the last three years.

Data also shows that crews have attended over 76 house fires in the last three years where pets were involved – highlighting that it isn’t just humans who can be affected by fire.

With most of these incidents being described by fire officers as easily preventable – the service has joined forces with a number of local ‘celebs’ to produce a series of online videos that highlight some of the everyday electrical fire risks in the home.

Sheffield Lord Mayor Magid Magid joins Pete McKee, Radio Sheffield’s Sam Cleasby and her husband, and former Arctic Monkeys tour manager, Timm Cleasby, in the series – with the first of which being launched today on social media.

The launch of these videos will also be followed by a range of stalls and educational talks across the county – with people across South Yorkshire urged to act on the three pieces of advice being given out by the fire service.

Area Manager Steve Helps, head of the joint police and fire community safety department, said: “When you leave the house in a morning, with the washing machine on and various electrical devices on charge, do you ever think about how your dog, or maybe your rabbit, would escape in the event of a fire? How about your fish, or budgie?

“Anybody who has a pet knows that they are part of the family but they are often overlooked when it comes to escaping in an emergency – with fire as a prime example. We know people are busy and don’t want to ask too much, so we’ve pulled out three simple things that people can do to keep their animal friends safer.

“Most of our electrical fires could have been easily prevented and the most common causes are things like leaving electrical appliances (like washing machines and tumble dryers) on overnight and when people are out, as well as overloading plug sockets.

“Buying ‘knock-off’ electrical equipment, which does not meet safety standards is also something we strongly discourage, as it can be prone to malfunctioning and starting fires. A good rule of thumb is that if it sounds too cheap to be true, it probably is.”

The service’s three top tips to safeguard your pets from electrical fires are:

  • Don’t leave appliances on, and devices charging, at night and when you’re out of the house – to eliminate the risk of these malfunctioning and catching fire.
  • Buy electrical equipment which is genuine and from trusted sources – ‘knock off’ phone chargers and batteries are prone to setting on fire.
  • Don’t overload plug sockets – exceeding the advised current rating (13 amps) can cause them to overheat and catch fire.

Earlier this month firefighters from Central and Lowedges were called to reports of a fire on Reney Road, Sheffield. Upon arrival they found a dog trapped inside a heavily smoke logged flat after a toaster had completely melted.

A different incident, which took place a year ago on Princess Street, Doncaster, saw two dogs trapped in their smoke-filled house during a kitchen fire. They had a lucky escape that day but their owner, Shaleen Ross, said it could have been much worse.

“When you leave the house you don’t think about what might happen when you’re out, especially to your pets,” she added.

“Fortunately the dogs found an air pocket, they got lucky, but we still had to move out of the house for three months as they kitchen was destroyed and there was smoke damage to other areas of the house. It was six weeks before Christmas too.

“Our smoke alarms did activate and were going off for a while, but nobody noticed. All I would say is be careful and make sure things are switched off before you leave the house, especially when you’ve got pets who aren’t able to get themselves out.”

More recently, 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.

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 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. People think that putting the washer on overnight will be cheaper and save time. It may do, in some cases, but you have to think about the risk and what could happen if there’s a fault and you’re not there to react quickly.

“I would say it’s just not worth it, the cost of some electricity and 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.”

Service thanks public for support during bonfire period

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue is thanking people across the county today (Monday 12 November) for their support during the bonfire period – with fireworks now being off general sale.

Crews from across the county dealt with the same amount of overall incidents on bonfire night this year than last – but saw a 16 per cent reduction in the number of ‘secondary fires’ they were called to during the course of the evening.

Preventing secondary fires, which include things such as deliberate rubbish and bin fires, as well as out of control bonfires, was a key focus of the service’s work during Operation Dark Nights.

The joint annual initiative, which was launched last month in partnership with South Yorkshire Police, saw officers from both organisations visiting schools across the county to talk about a range of things including peer pressure, the dangers of playing with fire and misusing fireworks.

It also saw parents urged to talk to their children about these dangers and the potential consequences of carelessness and deliberate fire-setting.

The activity ran from mid-October until the week after Bonfire Night itself, to account for any late bonfire parties, and whilst officers welcome the reduction in secondary incidents in comparison to the previous year, they are still urging people to take extra care over the coming months.

“A lot of work took place in the run up to bonfire night and I’d like to thank the public for their support, its pleasing to see that we’ve not seen an increase in incidents attended and have actually had a reduction in some areas, but it is important that we don’t become complacent,” said Area Manager Steve Helps, head of the joint police and fire community safety department.

“As we enter winter we’re continuing to urge parents and other responsible adults to have those 5 minute conversations with their kids to find out what they’re upto and outline the potential consequences of playing with fire.”

The service’s specific ‘Operation Dark Nights’ advice included:

  • Speak to your kids and find out what they’re up to – remind them of the damage that fire-setting can do to both people and property.
  • Bring your wheelie bins straight in after collection, and don’t leave them out overnight. These are often a target of arson.
  • Businesses – don’t leave your rubbish and waste lying around!
  • If you’re having a bonfire, make sure it is away from trees, bushes, sheds and fences.
  • Take care with fireworks and never go back to one once it is lit.

Fireworks (including sparklers) can only be bought from registered sellers, for private use, between 15 October and 10 November. They can also be bought between 26 to 31 December and 3 days before Diwali and Chinese New Year. Outside of these dates they can be purchased from licensed shops.

Service issues safety advice for Diwali celebrations

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue is once again calling on people across the county to take extra care today (Wednesday 7 November) and over the coming days as they celebrate Diwali.

With many families coming together, to celebrate what is one of the biggest dates in the religious calendar, comes an added risk due to the increased use of candles, divas, tealights and fireworks. The cooking of special meals can also bring additional dangers.

The service’s top five tips for Diwali, all of which involve taking very simple precautions, are:

  1. Always place divas/diyas, tea lights and candles on heat-resistant surfaces and well away from curtains and decorations.
  2. Children and pets should be supervised at all times near flames.
  3. Don’t let yourself get distracted – never leave cooking unattended.
  4. If a pan with oil in it catches fire, don’t move it and don’t throw water over it. Get out of the kitchen, close the door behind you and call 999.
  5. Ensure that all fireworks meet British safety standards and never go back to one once it is lit.

“This is a really important time for so many people across South Yorkshire, and we’re really keen that everyone observes it and enjoys it safely,” said Area Manager Steve Helps.

“Our main advice focuses on candle safety, simply keeping them away from flammable materials, such as curtains and clothes, and of course children, can make a big difference.”