Fire service calls for sensible approach to garden fires

South Yorkshire’s firefighters are calling on people across the county to use ‘common sense’ when lighting garden fires during the on-going COVID-19 pandemic.

The plea from South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue comes as they, and other fire services nationally, have seen an increase in garden fire call-outs over the last two weeks.

These incidents, they say, could potentially slow their response to a more serious incident and hamper their ability to help their communities in other ways during these difficult times.

“First and foremost, we don’t want to take away from the most important message right now – stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives,” said Group Manager Matt Gillatt, deputy head of the joint police and fire community safety team.

“What we do want to do, though, is keep our firefighters free not only for real, life-threatening emergencies, and for the extra work that they are starting to take on during this pandemic.

“We appreciate people are generating more rubbish by staying at home, and that disposal options are more limited right now, which is why some people are lighting garden fires.

“Ideally people wouldn’t do this at all, given that they can so easily get out of control, put people at risk and tie up our firefighters.

“But if people must have a fire in their garden, please do not leave them unattended, keep them away from sheds, trees and fences and have a bucket of water nearby.

“Please also consider your neighbours. Smoke can be a real nuisance and this is especially the case if you’re trying to enjoy some fresh air, or it’s blowing into your home.”

The service is also calling on people to be vigilant around deliberate fire-setting – with a particular plea going out to parents with teenage children.

“As well as an increase in garden fires we’ve seen a rise in deliberate fires, too. That is basically people setting fire to cars, rubbish, bins and other stuff.

“Whilst we sympathise with the people whose home’s we’ve attended to extinguish a garden fire, we really have no tolerance for those setting fire to things on purpose.

“At quite a lot of these deliberate incidents we’ve seen groups of young people running away upon our arrival so, if you’ve got kids that are still going out, please talk to them about the consequences of actions like this.”

Last week it was announced that a tri-party agreement had been struck for firefighters across the country to take on additional duties during the COVID-19 outbreak.

This will see crews across South Yorkshire potentially driving ambulances, delivering care packages to the most vulnerable and transporting bodies.

The extra efforts coincide with South Yorkshire’s new safety campaign, #KeepFireSafe, which has been launched in light of the pandemic.

More information on this campaign, how people can stay safe and get involved, can be found at www.syfire.gov.uk.

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Shout- stories of fire service life savers

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

Kirsty

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

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

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

Listen to the episode here

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Service pledges support following national pandemic agreement

South Yorkshire’s firefighters will be able to deliver food and drive ambulances in order to support their communities during the on-going COVID-19 pandemic.

This comes following an unprecedented national agreement that has been struck by fire chiefs, national employers and representative bodies such as the Fire Brigades Union (FBU).

Crews will also be able to retrieve dead bodies, as part of the deal, whilst continuing to do their core duty – responding to emergency incidents such as fires and road traffic collisions.

The additional work will be co-ordinated and done in conjunction with the South Yorkshire Local Resilience Forum – with the temporary agreement lasting for an initial two-month period.

“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,” said Chief Fire Officer, Alex Johnson.

“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 if called upon.

“When this is over, and it will be over, we want to know that we did everything we could to support our communities. Now, more than ever, is the time to come together. It is great to see that the three groups, nationally, have done exactly that.”

Any extra activities that firefighters are asked to undertake will be done on a voluntary basis and will be fully risk assessed – with crews being given any necessary training and personal protective equipment.

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Home Safety Checks – reduction during pandemic

Much like other services across the country, South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue took the difficult decision recentlyc to suspend all but immediately high-risk community safety activity.

This is due to the on-going COVID-19 pandemic and includes most of our home safety visits, safe and well checks, school visits and station-based events.

The joint police and fire Lifewise Centre is also closed, until further notice, and fire station community rooms are no longer being used by our partner agencies.

Whilst we strive to make South Yorkshire safer and stronger, through our wide ranging partnership and prevention work, these measures are required to safeguard our staff.

It is, during this difficult time, vitally important that our firefighters and control operators are kept fit and ready to respond to 999 emergencies.

Members of the public, and especially our partners, are still encouraged to make referrals through our website but please expect a delay in our response to these.

We will endeavour to complete them all as soon as it is safe, and possible, to do so. Until this point there is a range of safety information available on our website, here.

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Keep Fire Safe – children’s poster drawing contest

Home schooling? We’ve got you covered.

We’re launching a poster drawing competition for your youngsters and we have a load of LEGO prizes up for grabs.

We’ll be sharing as many entries as possible with our staff to help keep spirits up, too.

All we want your youngsters to do is get a piece of A4 paper and draw us a firefighter, fire engine or fire station.

They must also include at least one of the below safety messages:

  • don’t forget about your cooking!
  • don’t leave clothes near electric heaters
  • don’t use broken electrical items
  • test your smoke alarms!

When they’ve done just add their name, age, a grown-up’s name and their contact details. Either DM us a photo or email one to press@syfire.gov.uk.

Winners will be picked in May. We look forward to seeing the entries!

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Fire service offers safety advice in light of virus pandemic

South Yorkshire’s firefighters are calling on people to take extra steps to keep themselves safe from fire, following the Government’s recent announcements on social distancing.

They say that, with thousands across the county expected to either self-isolate, work from home or generally stay away from others, it’s never been more important to think about fire safety.

And despite the fact that crews are continuing to respond to 999 emergencies as normal, senior fire officers are keen to limit potentially avoidable call outs.

“We’re certainly not trying to panic anyone here – nor take away from the very important health advice – as our firefighters are continuing to respond to calls as normal,” said Group Manager Matt Gillatt, head of the joint police and fire community safety team.

“What we are doing, though, is asking people who are spending more time than normal at home to have a think about fire safety and take on board some of our advice.

“Simple steps – like making sure you’ve got working smoke alarms – can make a huge difference in terms of how safe you and your family are at home.”

The service has boiled its top tips down to four key things – based on the leading causes of accidental house fire across South Yorkshire:

  1. Don’t leave cooking unattended and stop using chip pans – oven chips are safer
  2. Don’t leave clothes/towels near heaters, hobs, or candles
  3. Make sure your electrical items are in working order and don’t use faulty white goods
  4. Make sure you have working smoke alarms and test them weekly

As part of a new ‘Keep Fire Safe’ campaign – which has been developed in light of the pandemic – fire service staff will be posting safety advice booklets, through letterboxes, to homes in certain areas across the county in the coming weeks.

The campaign will also see the launch of a poster drawing competition for kids – with schools now closed for the foreseeable future – and an online safety quiz. Both of which give entrants the chance to win prizes for their efforts.

A specific home safety web page has also been set up, dedicated to people who are self-isolating, working from home and generally social distancing, at www.syfire.gov.uk/keepfiresafe.

“We’d love to see as many people take part in these two competitions as possible. Not only will it give the kids something to do, it will open up really important conversations about fire safety,” added Matt.

“Hopefully we can put a smile on some faces, too. We’ve got prizes on offer for both kids and adults which should be reason enough for people to enter!”

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New Deputy Chief Fire Officer for South Yorkshire

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Charity car wash events – March 2020

UPDATE:

Please note that all car wash events during March have been cancelled.

Firefighters will be washing cars throughout March as part of a national charity event.

The events are aimed at raising money for The Fire Fighter’s Charity, which supports injured firefighters and their families.

The following stations are taking part in the annual event during March.

Cancelled – Adwick station – Thursday 12 March – 2pm -5:30pm (Quarry Lane, Woodlands, Doncaster, DN6 7RT)

Cancelled – Rossington station – Saturday 28 March – 10am – 4pm (West End Lane, Rossington, Doncaster, DN11 0PQ)

Why not pop along to one of the above and get your car cleaned all in aid of The Fire Fighters charity.

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Sprinklers help save chip pan fire couple in Doncaster tower block

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Fire service staff call out hurtful comments in defiant new video

South Yorkshire’s fire service is taking a stand against online trolls in a bid to show support to its staff, and communities, during LGBT+ History Month.

This comes in the form of a defiant new video that has been launched today, Monday 3 February, featuring some of the service’s employees.

It shows the staff members reading out some of the abusive, hurtful and homophobic comments made by people on Facebook after the organisation added a rainbow to its profile picture during Pride Month last June.

The service, which strives to be a diverse and inclusive employer, says it wants to show its LGBT+ staff, and communities, that they are valued and supported.

“We fully expect the video will have a mixed reaction but some of the comments we received last year were awful and totally unacceptable,” said Chief Fire Officer, Alex Johnson.

“We’ve produced it for two reasons – firstly we wanted to support the month and let our staff, and communities, know that we are proud to employ and serve them, regardless of those comments.

“And secondly we wanted to demonstrate that we are a genuinely inclusive organisation that values the contribution of all our staff, whatever their LGBT+ status.

“I’d encourage anyone considering a career in the fire service, especially those who may be inspired by our work around LGBT History Month, to register their interest on our website.”

Firefighters, control operators and support staff all feature in the video – which includes 11 employees reading 11 different comments.

The production is being supplemented by another video produced by the service, this one being specifically for staff and based on LGBT+ history.

Crew Manager Rebecca Savin, who is the South Yorkshire Fire Brigades Union LGBT Rep, hopes that the service’s stance will not only allow staff to bring their authentic selves to work but also encourage more people from the LGBT+ community to consider fire service careers.

She said: “We’ve come a long way recently in terms of diversity but there’s still more to do. It really is important that our workforce truly represents all of the communities we serve and visible acts of support like this can mean a lot to sometimes marginalised groups.”

“From a staff perspective I’m really pleased with the video. It’s great that, as an employer, SYFR wants to challenge these comments and stand up for its staff and the people it serves.”

Anyone who wants to register their interest in a job with South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue can do so at www.syfire.gov.uk/jobs.

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