Dream becomes reality for Darnall and Rotherham fire volunteer

One of South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue’s (SYFR) numerous fire volunteers saw their hard work pay off recently as they completed their initial firefighter recruits course.

Rob Hall – who first started as a fire cadet at Darnall fire station before becoming a volunteer cadet instructor there when he turned 18 – was part of the 61st group of trainees that graduated recently.

He had volunteered at Darnall, and subsequently Rotherham, from starting there in 2013 to the start of his firefighter training course earlier this year. Before starting his training Rob also spent around 4 months as the cadet branch manager at Stocksbridge fire station.

He is now at the start of what he hopes will be a long and rewarding firefighting career with SYFR and said his volunteering experience helped give him a realistic insight into the role of a modern-day firefighter.

He added: “People often think the role of a firefighter is zooming around in fire engines, rescuing cats from trees and pulling people from burning buildings. My volunteering experience showed me that it was about much more than that and that knowledge was really useful during the application and training process.

“I’ve always enjoyed helping others and volunteering gave me the opportunity to do just that. The most rewarding part for me was being able to see how the scheme benefited the cadets.

“I’ve seen some cadets join as really shy young people, who struggled to make new friends, but then leave with confidence and new friends – both of which will hopefully benefit them for years to come.

“For anybody thinking about getting involved in volunteering I would say go for it – it’s a fantastic experience and makes a real difference.”

Volunteer fire cadet instructors work with teenagers aged between 13 and 17-years-old and help them develop their self-confidence and life skills through fire and rescue related activity.

To find out more about being a volunteer email volunteers@syfire.gov.uk or visit http://www.syfire.gov.uk/find-a-job/volunteering/.

Fire funded sprinklers installed in historic Thorne autism residential home

Sprinklers installed in the converted home of a Doncaster brewery magnate now used to support people with autism, have been hailed as proof that the potentially lifesaving equipment can be fitted in almost any setting.

The devices have been fitted at charity Autism Plus’ residential living service, Thorne House, once the home of Thorne Brewery owners the Darley family, despite the challenges of fitting the devices in a historic building.

The sprinkler scheme behind the installation, which has been part funded by South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Authority was carefully planned and communicated to the people living in the property, considering the needs of residents with autism and learning disabilities to ensure that anyone affected by the noise of building work, unfamiliar visitors and disruption to their daily routines was kept to a minimum.

All five apartments and other rooms and communal spaces in the home are protected and all pipework and sprinklers heads have been concealed to limit the affect on some of the internal architectural features of the late Victorian building.

Fire officers say the installation is proof of their commitment to championing the use of sprinklers in higher risk, residential settings.

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Area Manager Steve Helps, said: “Sprinklers are a cost effective way of making homes safer – they stop fires from spreading, put them out quickly and save lives. We are especially concerned about those people who are most at risk of fire such as those with mobility or mental health issues or people with dementia who may not know how to react, or be able to react quickly enough, if they hear a smoke alarm.

“We play a key leadership role in helping people to better understand the benefits of sprinklers as part our commitment to reduce the impact of fire on people, property and the environment. This scheme, despite its obvious challenges, is proof of the fact that these potentially life saving devices can be fitted in almost any setting.”

The fire service last year announced a fund to encourage more housing providers to install them in buildings lived in by those residents most at risk from fire.

SYFR is one of the leading fire services in the country for its pioneering use of sprinklers in high risk residential settings, leading a UK first project to retrofit an automated system at the Callow Mount block of flats in Gleadless. That scheme is now internationally recognised for the improved safety it offers the people living within the building.

It has also worked alongside Sheffield City Council to make more than 540 properties in the city safer by installing lifesaving sprinkler systems at council owned flats in Gleadless Valley, Westfield, Stannington and Netherthorpe. This project was another UK first.

The installation of sprinkler systems in new build homes is now mandatory in Wales and SYFR is actively promoting the use of this type of protection in all types of buildings to build resilience and safety into local communities.

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Authority’s sprinkler fund is open to any social or private housing provider. It will part fund those projects which demonstrate the best value and innovation in protecting the most vulnerable people possible from fire.  It forms part of the Stronger Safer Communities Reserve, with money set aside from the Authority’s reserves. Autism Plus won £159,000 in funding from the Fire Authority for this scheme.

Fire Authority Chair, Cllr Chris Lamb, said: “This fund exists to do exactly what it says on the tin – to help make South Yorkshire safer and stronger.

“It is clear that sprinklers can potentially save not only property, but lives too, and we hope this example will encourage other housing providers to consider getting such systems installed, especially in the homes of our more vulnerable residents.”

For more information, visit http://www.syfire.gov.uk/business-advice/sprinklers-2/.

Police and fire community safety teams join forces in major collaboration milestone

South Yorkshire safety teams have joined forces, in an ambitious fire and police collaboration project.

The joint community safety department brings together staff from South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue and South Yorkshire Police to work together with the shared aim of keeping people safe.

The leadership within each service believe the joint department will make both organisations’ work to prevent emergencies and reduce demand more efficient and effective.

High profile activities the teams currently undertake 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.

Area Manager Steve Helps, who was jointly appointed by both organisations to lead the team, said: “Police and fire have worked closely to make people safer for many years. But we truly believe that by bringing together the skills, experience and specialisms of both teams, we can do even more to reduce demand and better protect the communities we serve. Vulnerability in our communities is going up at a time when our resources are not, so we need to become even more targeted in what we do and the people we engage with. This project is about meeting that aspiration and providing early intervention to better meet our future demands.”

Minister for Policing and the Fire Service Nick Hurd said: “I’m pleased that South Yorkshire’s police and fire and rescue service are collaborating to form a joint community safety department and look forward to hearing more about the benefits this brings to local communities. The Government introduced a number of measures to facilitate greater collaboration between our emergency services, which presents a real opportunity to provide a more efficient and effective service to the public.”

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

Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police Stephen Watson, South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Chief Fire Officer and Chief Executive Jamie Courtney, Police and Crime Commissioner Dr Alan Billings and Chair of South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Authority, Councillor Chris Lamb signed a collaboration agreement earlier this year to outline the terms and vision of the work between the organisations.

Other big collaboration developments have included the development of a joint police and fire station in Maltby and the appointment of a Head of Joint Vehicle Fleet Management and Head of Joint Estates and Facilities Management.

Service makes plea to local businesses as part of national safety initiative

Firefighters from across South Yorkshire have attended more than 1,500 fires in non-domestic properties in the last five years, figures show.

The revelation comes as South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue (SYFR) joins forces with fire services across the country next week (Monday 10 September) as part of a national business safety campaign.

As part of the initiative, which runs for the full week, fire officers are urging business owners and managers to ensure their risk assessments are up to date and, if they aren’t, to get in touch and take advantage of the support available.

“When we talk about business fire safety, and fire risk assessments, it’s not just a form filling exercise – it is a process which helps safeguard businesses from the devastation that fire can cause,” said SYFR Business Support & Policies Officer, John Parry.

“The sheer fact that we’ve attended such a large amount of fires, in non-domestic properties, in the last five years shows that this is a real issue. A fire, be it accidental or deliberate, can in some circumstances stop a business from trading altogether.

“Our message to local businesses, especially SMEs who might be particularly vulnerable, is therefore really simple – if you’ve not got an updated fire risk assessment in place or you have any concerns at all about fire safety then get in touch. We are here to help!”

In addition to urging businesses to ensure their fire risk assessments are up to date, SYFR is also offering a range of business-specific safety advice during the week.

This includes good housekeeping, keeping escape routes clear, providing appropriate firefighting equipment and taking steps to protect against arson and deliberate fire-setting.

Another way that business owners can safeguard themselves from fire is through sprinklers – which are able to detect and potentially extinguish fires before they get out of control and cause lasting damage.

More information on sprinklers, and contact details for the SYFR Sprinkler Lead, can be found here: http://www.syfire.gov.uk/business-advice/sprinklers-2/.

To get in touch with the SYFR Business Safety Team – who will be able to offer information and advice on commercial and industrial premises – please visit http://www.syfire.gov.uk/business-advice/get-in-touch-2/.

National Business Safety Week is championed by the National Fire Chiefs Council and runs from Monday 10 until Friday 16 September. The initiative is supported by fire and rescue services across the country and aims to make businesses aware of the help and support available to them.

Sprinkler system installed to safeguard Rotherham care facility residents

Residents of a high dependency care facility in a Rotherham suburb are now safer from fire than ever before thanks to a fire funded sprinkler initiative.

The 15 bedded facility – which is based within three large bungalows in Thurcroft – houses people with both learning disabilities and mobility problems.

It is run by the South Yorkshire Housing Association (SYHA) who, earlier this year, won match funding from South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Authority’s (SYFRA) sprinkler fund to pay for a state-of-the-art sprinkler system.

Installed earlier this year the devices cover every room in each of the three buildings and, combined with the existing fire alarm system, provide residents with a high level of fire protection.

“The people living within this facility are some of the most vulnerable in South Yorkshire which is why we’re really pleased that they now have such an effective fire protection system in place,” said South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue’s Sprinkler Advocate, Roger Brason.

“We know that sprinklers are a cost-effective way of making homes safer as they stop fires from spreading and in most cases actually put them out fully. We’re passionate about helping people better understand this and the benefits of these potentially life-saving systems.”

Following the installation of the system a cheque was presented, by Councillor Alan Atkin on behalf of the Fire Authority, to SYHA earlier this week (Wednesday 22 August).

The sprinkler fund was made available last year. It is open to any social or private housing provider and will part fund those projects which demonstrate the best value and innovation in protecting the most vulnerable people possible from fire.

This facility is one of five places that were awarded match funding from the Fire Authority when it made the sprinkler fund available last year.

It is hoped that the work done so far to install these systems will encourage more housing providers to consider installing sprinklers in their buildings – especially in the homes of residents considered at higher risk of fire.

The sprinkler fund forms part of the SYFRA’s Stronger Safer Communities Reserve Fund, with money set aside from the Authority’s reserves.

For more information on sprinklers please visit http://www.syfire.gov.uk/business-advice/sprinklers-2/.

The picture above shows Councillor Alan Atkin presenting a cheque, on behalf of the Fire Authority, to South Yorkshire Housing Association.

Sheffield volunteer teaching sign language to firefighters

A much-loved Sheffield volunteer is helping the fire service to give safety advice to deaf and hard of hearing people, by sharing his sign language skills with crews.

Phil Bowers, aged 49, has volunteered for two days a week as a South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue fire support volunteer for more than five years, helping to carry out home safety visits and fitting smoke alarms.

But he is also a trained British Sign Language (BSL) interpreter, meaning he has been able to share basic signing skills with community safety staff and firefighters, including a watch at Parkway fire station and managers across the service.

Phil said; “Apart from teaching the crews at Parkway fire station I have also been teaching group managers and had invitations to teach at different fire stations in South Yorkshire. Having sign language skills feels like a great blessing to myself and I feel really lucky that it is not just in my head, but it is locked into my heart. I feel so blessed that I can share it with my fire service family.

“It is so nice that South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue want to learn about the deaf and hard of hearing community, which I have always felt sometimes doesn’t get noticed.

“It has been a pleasure for the last five years to be welcomed to the fire service family, to learn so many different skills and how to be professional in many different situations. It’s just been unbelievable and it has been the loveliest roller coaster of my life.

Area Manager Steve Helps, said: “Our brilliant volunteers contribute so much to the work we are doing to make people safer. We have dozens of volunteers, bringing a huge range of different and diverse qualities, skills and experiences. It can sometimes be harder for firefighters and other staff members to communicate with people who are deaf or hard of hearing, so Phil sharing some basic sign-language skills in this way will be of huge benefit.”

To find out more about volunteering with the fire service, visit http://www.syfire.gov.uk/find-a-job/volunteering/

Youngsters enjoy firefighter experience at Parkway fire station

A group of children from all across the country have been given a day to remember thanks to Parkway Blue Watch.

The youngsters, all of which have a limb difference, attended the station with their families as part of an event organised by the Barnsley-based LimbBo Foundation and Nick Abbott, station manager at Parkway.

They took part in a variety of fire and rescue related activities ranging from trying on fire kit to squirting water – all with the help and supervision of Parkway firefighters.

A ride in a fire engine was also on the agenda thanks to the National Emergency Services Museum which provided a non-operational appliance for the children to ride in.

“The communities we serve are at the centre of everything we do so we were really pleased to welcome the children, and their families, onto station and give them an insight into our work,” said Nick.

“They were so well behaved and seemed to love every minute. The fire engine ride and water squirting in particular went down really well and it was great to see the massive smiles on the children’s faces.”

Kind hearted fire volunteer comes to aid of stricken roadside couple

A volunteer at South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue has been thanked for her actions after helping an elderly couple when their car broke down on a busy main road in blistering heat.

Andy Swarek, who has been volunteering within the service for six months, was on her way home from an event in Conisbrough when she came across the elderly couple who appeared to be stranded at the side of the road.

Mavis and George White, both in their late 70’s, had broken down on a busy road in Doncaster and had been told there was a four hour wait for a recovery vehicle. Despite the soaring temperatures, Mavis and George stood for 90 minutes with jump leads at the ready in the hope that a bystander would come to their aid.

After having been passed by hundreds of motorists, it was Andy that eventually pulled over to help jump start the couple’s car.

Mavis and George said: “As we weren’t registered with a breakdown company we weren’t a priority and feared we’d be sat there for the full four hours we’d been quoted. Andy stopped, was extremely polite and even offered us some water. She was kind and patient and was sympathetic to our situation even though she probably just wanted to get home. Andy went above and beyond and is a credit to the fire service as a volunteer.”

Andy said: “I’d been sat in tailback traffic for about 15 minutes when I saw George stood by his car with one of the jump leads in his hand and the other connected to his car. Whilst other motorists seemed to be simply driving by, I pulled over to help. As soon as I stopped they both seemed to be very relieved to see me.”

Mavis and George’s daughter, Rebecca White, contacted the fire service to pass on her thanks to Andy. She said: “It might just be a jump start and a drink to some people but to my parents in their late 70’s this meant the world. Andy is a huge credit to South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue and our faith in humanity has been restored because of her actions.”

Andy is a volunteer cadet instructor within the service. Her role involves working with 13-18 year olds, teaching them about the importance of fire safety including various firefighting skills and techniques.

If you would like to find out more about becoming a volunteer at South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue, visit our website http://www.syfire.gov.uk/find-a-job/volunteering/ or get in touch with us on volunteers@syfire.gov.uk

Station open days

A number of fire stations across South Yorkshire will be holding a family fun day during the summer.  The full list of stations are below:

Thorne station – Monday 20 August – 10am-3pm
Union Road, Thorne, Doncaster DN8 5EL

Lowedges station – Saturday 25 August – 10am-3:30pm
Lowedges Road, Sheffield S8 7JN

Rotherham station – Sunday 26 August – 10am-4pm
Fitzwilliam Road, Eastwood, Rotherham S65 1ST

Barnsley station – Saturday 8 September – 10am-2pm
Broadway, Barnsley S70 6RA

There will be a range of activities for all the family at each open day including:

  • Fire engines to look round
  • Demonstrations
  • Fire cadets
    And much more

Pitsmoor playground workers hail impact of fire funding

Play workers behind a much-loved community playground in Sheffield have hailed the impact fire service backing has had on their facility.

Pitsmoor Adventure Playground was built in the 1970s, but funding problems earlier this decade meant the site was open for just nine hours per week.

Now thanks to help from a range of partners, including cash from South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Authority’s Stronger Safer Communities Reserve fund, the playground is helping to transform the lives of children in the area- with fire officers hoping it will help to reduce fires in the process.

The playground is accessed by children and young people from across Pitsmoor, Burngreave and the surrounding areas, including harder to reach children from Roma Slovak, Yemeni and Somali communities.

Evidence suggests it is making a big impact on young people’s life skills, behaviour and personal self-care, including dental hygiene.

Children visiting the playground are also encouraged by play team workers and volunteers to become active citizens, taking care of the playground and the surrounding communities. The fire funding, which had been set aside from the Authority’s reserves, helped to pay for fire safety through play sessions and additional learning sessions have been delivered on keeping safe on roads and around water.

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Area Manager Steve Helps, said: “We know that we can’t hope to reach every member of our community on our own, which is why we need the help of charities and community organisations like this one. Our goal as a fire service is to make our communities safer and stronger and we believe our contribution towards this important and much-loved facility in the heart of one of Sheffield’s more deprived neighbourhoods is a good example of how we are working towards that mission.”

Fire Authority member Cllr Jackie Satur, said: “This is exactly the sort of project the Fire Authority has been proud to support- making a measurable difference to the lives of young people in a particularly deprived area, whilst at the same time helping to reduce fires through targeted education and advice.”         

Charity Manager Patrick Meleady, said, “We are delighted to have secured the support of South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue and through our partnership arrangements have engaged with 100s of people, this project is making a considerable difference within our community having a direct impact on educating the children on the importance of keeping safe.”

For more information visit pitsmooradventure.org.