Connor’s story

Connor, aged 14Connor liked to spend time with his mates. When the nights got darker, they’d hang out near the shops or the takeaway. Or they’d talk to girls and play music on their phones. Other times they’d just mess about.

One night, one of the lads brought some fireworks to play with. Someone, Connor can’t remember who, lit a firework and dropped it in a wheelie bin on the street.

Nothing happened. Connor went back to have a look.

Suddenly the firework went off and the bin caught light.

The fire got really big, really fast. Flames leapt out and there was loads of thick, black smoke. Then the firework exploded. Connor’s mates ran off. Then he felt his face burning.

Connor wanted to look good in front of his mates. Now he looks like this.

Advice for young people

  • Even small fires spread quickly and can turn into something that could hurt you or someone you love- like your little brother or one of your mates
  • Playing with fireworks could leave you with burns and scars which will last you for the rest of your life
  • When fire engines are out at things like bin and grass fires, they aren’t available to rescue people from house fires. What if there was a fire in your house and your mum was trapped, but firefighters were busy putting out a fire you’d started?
  • People starting fires do get caught. As well as landing you in big trouble with your mum or dad, you could end up in prison

Advice for parents

  • Know where your children are playing this bonfire period. Is it safe? What are they up to when they’re there?
  • Keep matches, lighters and fireworks in a safe place where your kids can’t find them
  • Look out for signs your child could be starting fires- things like the smell of smoke on their clothing or lighters in their pockets. Talk to them about the danger of starting fires

Advice for residents

  • Help reduce fires by bringing in your bin in off the street as soon as it’s been collected, and only put it out on the morning of collection
  • Don’t store things like unwanted sofas and other furniture in your garden- these are an easy target for people wanting to start fires
  • If you know someone is starting fires in your area, call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111. Arsonists do get caught and they do get prosecuted

Connor’s story is fictional but the circumstances leading to his injuries are based on research and experience compiled by the police and fire service.

Open water safety advice following lake rescue

Fire officers are asking the public to stay safe this summer by not risking their lives through swimming in open water.

Firefighters had to rescue two men on Friday evening after they had entered water at Lakeside, Doncaster.

Crews from Edlington, Doncaster, Rivelin and Aston Park stations responded to the incident at around 9.30pm, finding the pair clinging to a boat in the middle of the lake.

They used a fire service boat to rescue the men, who were both in their twenties, after they had entered the water to cool off in hot weather. They were both taken to hospital possibly suffering from the effects of hypothermia.

Over 400 people die in the water every year in the UK and as the summer continues and temperatures become warmer, it is essential to be aware of the dangers that rivers, lakes and reservoirs can present.

Places like rivers, lakes or flooded quarries are completely unsuitable for swimming as they hide a number of hidden dangers.

River flows can be unpredictable and the water is often deeper, colder and faster than expected.

The dangers of open water are:

  • The water can be much deeper than you expect
  • Rivers, lakes, canals and reservoirs are much colder than you think
  • Open water can carry water borne diseases, like Weils disease
  • Cold water dramatically affects your ability to swim
  • There may be hidden currents, which can pull you under the water
  • You don’t know what lies beneath, like pieces of rubbish or reeds which can trap or injure you

Grass fire warning during hot weather

Fire crews are warning the public to take extra care during this week’s heat wave to avoid any accidental grass fires.

During hot and dry weather the risk of grass fires increases, but following a few simple steps can greatly reduce the chance of a fire starting.

Fire officers are asking people to help prevent grass fires by:

  • Not using open fires in the countryside
  • Making sure any barbecue or disposable barbecue is only used in a suitable location and is extinguished properly after use
  • Extinguishing cigarettes completely and not throwing cigarette ends on the ground
  • Not leaving bottles or glass in woodland – sunlight shining through glass can start fires

Fire crews want their resources available to protect the communities of South Yorkshire, incidents involving accidental grass fires can use up a lot of these vital resources.

Warning for smokers after house blaze death inquest

Fire officers are again warning of the dangers of smoking in bed, following the death of a man in a Sheffield house fire.

They are also asking their partners in the health, housing and social care sectors to do more to help them identify those who are most at risk of fire, so that they can put extra measures in place to help prevent fatal fires.
Alec Connington, aged 54, died after a fire at his top floor flat on Manor Park Road, Sheffield.

A neighbour had raised the alarm after hearing smoke alarms in the property sounding at around 10pm on 17 February this year.

Firefighters wearing breathing apparatus searched the property and put out the fire. They discovered the body of Mr Connington in the bedroom of the flat.

Mr Connington had received treatment for substance misuse for several years and was a heavy smoker. Fire investigators found more than 200 cigarette ends close to his bed, an inquest heard.

Recording a verdict of accidental death, deputy coroner Julian Fox said: “Mr Connington’s death is a further reminder that the dangers of smoking in bed can be very great and can easily lead to fatal fires.”

Station Manager Simon Rodgers, who investigated the cause of the fire, said: “No one deserves to die in these circumstances and ultimately any house fire death is preventable, regardless of any other factors which may have contributed to that person’s death. We want to use this case to call on our partners to do more to help us to identify those who are most at risk of fire, so that we can put useful measures in place to try to prevent this kind of tragic incident.”

Safety advice from preventing fires caused by cigarettes includes:

• Put out cigarettes properly and dispose of them carefully
• Never buy cheap, imported cigarettes- these don’t meet modern EU guidelines designed to prevent fires
• Never smoke in bed- you can easily fall asleep, starting a fire

Fire service safety advice ahead of Islamic festival

The fire service is calling on South Yorkshire’s Muslim communities to take extra care ahead of one of the most important periods in the Islamic calendar.

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue fears people are more likely to be at risk of fire during Ramadan, which begins on 18 June.

Ramadan lasts for 30 days and is observed by fasting during daylight hours, with cooking taking place before sunrise or after sunset.

Head of community safety Kevin Ronan, said: “We recognise this is a really important time in the Islamic calendar, but want to make sure people observe it safely. In particular, people should take extra care to keep an eye on their cooking, as fasting could leave you feeling tired and more likely to become distracted or have an accident.

“Smoke alarms are the best way of making sure that if a fire does occur, you have the vital extra minutes to escape. So make sure smoke alarms are fitted on every level of your home and test them regularly.

“It’s also vital that if the smoke alarms do sound, everyone in the house knows what to do and knows how to escape, so talk this through with your family and loved ones.”

Top tips for staying safe during Ramadan include:

• Cooking- Half of all house fires start in the kitchen, so take extra care when cooking, particularly with hot oil – it sets alight easily
• Never throw water on a burning pan- in the event of a fire get out, stay out and call 999
• Take extra care with clothing- make sure hijaabs, shalwar, kameez and saris are kept well away from the hob
• Practise escape routes- and make sure every member of your family knows it well
• Have a working smoke alarm on every floor of your home- test them weekly to make sure they work.

Safety advice after Wake Road inquest verdict

The fire service has repeated safety warnings, after an inquest into the deaths of five people in a house fire in Sheffield concluded.

The tragedy on Wake Road, Sheffield killed three generations of the same family in April 2014.

Recording a verdict of accidental death, coroner Chris Dorries described the fire as “a tragedy of unimaginable proportion” and said the cause of the fire was “undetermined.”

Evidence was heard from forensic experts about electrical items which were found close to where the fire started. These included a mobile phone, phone charger and baby monitor charging cradle, but the coroner said none of these could be said to have caused the fire.

Smoke alarms were fitted in the property and operated that night, but the family initially believed it to be a false alarm.

The fire spread quickly and was described by firefighters as being particularly ferocious. This was aided by doors within the house remaining open, which helped the fire to spread, the inquest heard.

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue’s head of community safety Kevin Ronan, said: “This was the most serious house fire in terms of loss of life that our crews have attended for many years. Our thoughts remain with the loved ones of those who died at what must be a time of enormous sorrow.

“Fires as serious as this are fortunately very rare, but when they do happen they affect our service personnel and the wider community very deeply.

“We’d remind people that whilst smoke alarms have the potential to save lives in house fires, they will only do so if people take the appropriate action when the alarm sounds- to get out, stay out and call 999.

“One of our main safety messages during talks and safety visits is to shut internal doors at night to stop the spread of a fire in the event one does occur. Unfortunately it does not appear that this happened at this incident, meaning the blaze spread incredibly quickly.”

Firefighters were praised during proceedings for their exceptional bravery, with Mr Dorries commending the first crew in attendance to the Chief Fire Officer for recognition.

Firefighters wearing breathing apparatus walked up a burning staircase in temperatures of more than 1000 degrees celcius to search for casualties, the inquest heard.

“We echo the words of the coroner who commended the actions of the first crew in attendance. The inquest was told that this was the most ferocious domestic fire firefighters with more than 25 years experience had ever attended, and it is right that their actions have been recognised”, said Kevin.

One of those who died, 53-year-old Shabina Begum, has also been nominated for a posthumous Royal Humane Society award in recognition of her bravery in attempting to rescue her grandchildren from the fire.

Top 10 tips for preventing fires

Sizzle safely say firefighters ahead of BBQ weekend

South Yorkshire residents planning to celebrate the warm weather with a barbecue this weekend are being reminded to take some basic steps to ensure their party plans don’t go up in smoke.

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue say al fresco cooking carries a potential fire risk- but only if barbecues are used incorrectly.

Kevin Ronan, head of community safety, said: “Many people will be taking advantage of the beautiful weather this weekend and after a week of rain, who can blame them. All we are saying is before you get started with the sausages and kebabs, take a minute to decide where you’re going to site it. Then, when the coals are properly cooled, dispose of them safely.”

To make sure your barbecue goes to plan:

  • Site it on a flat surface well away from trees, shrubs and grassland
  • Keep a bucket of water or sand close by, just in case
  • Never use petrol or paraffin on a barbecue, only recognised lighters and starter fuels
  • Make sure the coals have properly cooled before disposal and empty ashes onto bare soil, not into the bin

Recent high-profile deaths on campsites involving barbecues have also prompted safety campaigners to remind campers of the fatal consequences of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Barbecues continue to give off the deadly gas even after the coals are cool. So campers should never use barbecues inside tents, or to stay warm indoors.

Yellow wind warning prompts safety tips

The Met Office has issued a yellow warning for wind across South Yorkshire, and many other parts of the country, later on Monday and overnight into Tuesday.

We’re asking the public, and especially drivers, to take some precautions to stay safe, as some gusts are expected to reach more than 60 miles per hour.

Driving tips during windy weather

  • Check local traffic reports to see if the route is clear before you make your journey, and avoid traveling during the worst of the weather if you can
  • Take extra care when driving while it’s still dark in areas that you know have flooded or been affected by severe weather on previous occasions, and please don’t ignore diversion and road closure signs
  • Be alert to the danger posed by debris, including branches and slates, that may have blown into the roadway.
  • Remember, wind rarely blows steadily, and a sudden gust can catch out even the most experienced driver
  • High-sided vehicles are most affected by windy weather, but strong gusts can also blow a car, cyclist or motorcyclist off course. This can happen on open stretches of road exposed to strong crosswinds, or when passing bridges or gaps in hedges
  • In very windy weather your vehicle may be affected by turbulence created by large vehicles. Motorcyclists are particularly affected, so keep well back from them when they are overtaking a high-sided vehicle

Water safety warning ahead of bank holiday

Firefighters are urging people to stay safe near open water ahead of the bank holiday weekend.

Over 400 people die in the water every year in the UK, and firefighters are urging people to follow some basic rules to stay safe.

Officers say people should avoid open water- like rivers and lakes- because they may not always be aware of the danger it poses. River flows can be unpredictable and water is often deeper, colder and faster than expected. People should enjoy water safely in swimming pools or safer, specialist facilities instead.

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue head of community safety Kevin Ronan, said: “It shouldn’t take tragedy to bring the issue of water safety to public attention, but recent cases from elsewhere in the country of people drowning in open water are another reminder of the dangers rivers, lakes and reservoirs can present.

“We regularly receive 999 calls in the summer about people getting into difficulty in water, so it’s only a matter of time before someone’s safety is really put at risk unless people listen to our advice.

“It can be tempting to cool off in hot weather, but stick to a swimming pool. Hundreds of people drown each year in the UK and places like rivers, lakes or flooded quarries places are completely unsuitable for swimming as they hide a number of hidden dangers.”

The dangers of open water are:

  • The water can be much deeper than you expect
  • Rivers, lakes, canals and reservoirs are much colder than you think
  • Cold water dramatically affects your ability to swim
  • There may be hidden currents, which can pull you under the water
  • You don’t know what lies beneath, like pieces of rubbish or reeds which can trap or injure you