South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue

South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue
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Bonfire and firework advice

Bonfires

If you’re planning to have a bonfire at any time, but particularly during this firework period, please follow some simple safety guides to help you, your family, pets and wildlife stay safe.

Building your bonfire

  • Build your bonfire well away from, and clear of, buildings, garden sheds, fences, hedges and overhanging branches
  • Keep it to a manageable size and evenly built, so that it collapses inwards as it burns
  • Do not include plastics, household items or rubber in your fire

Lighting your bonfire

  • It is dangerous to use flammable liquids to help start a bonfire such as petrol or kerosene, use firelighters.
  • Do not burn dangerous items such as aerosol cans, paint tins, foam furniture or batteries
  • Do not throw anything in the fire
  • Tell neighbours you are going to have a bonfire to avoid non-essential 999 calls

Double check

  • The bonfire’s construction is still sound before lighting it
  • There are no children or wildlife hiding in the fire
  • No hazardous items such as aerosols, sealed cans or fireworks have been thrown onto it

Remember

  • Never leave bonfires unattended – we recommend a bonfire should be supervised by an adult until it has burnt out
  • Once you are finished with the bonfire, dampen it down fully with water making sure that the embers are extinguished and surroundings are made safe before leaving
  • Keep a bucket of water or hosepipe nearby in case of an emergency
  • If the bonfire becomes out of control and catches foliage or property alight – call 999 immediately
  • If your clothes catch fire remember to STOP, DROP and ROLL and cool burns under running water for at least 20 minutes

Fireworks

Fireworks are something that can be enjoyed by all the family, but should be used safely, carefully and lawfully. Have a person dedicated to lighting your fireworks who is over 18 and remember that alcohol and fireworks do not mix.

If you are planning on having a firework display, you can help to avoid an emergency and/or upset by following our top tips:

  • Ensure the firework is the correct way up and secure – light at arms length using a taper and stand well back
  • Keep fireworks in a closed box away from the lighting location
  • Only buy fireworks that are CE marked and follow the instructions
  • Never go back to a firework that has been lit and don’t throw them or put them in your pocket
  • Keep pets indoors and let your neighbours know you’re having a display
  • Stick to the law – you can’t set off fireworks in public places and can’t set them off between 11pm and 7am – except for Bonfire Night when the cut off is midnight

Sparklers

  • Supervise children with sparklers at all times
  • Stick the end in a halved carrot to make it easier for little hands to hold
  • Light one sparkler at a time and wear gloves
  • Keep a bucket of water or sand nearby for used sparklers
  • Let them fully cool before throwing them away

Useful information

Working Together on Firework Displays – The Blue Firework Guide –  This guide is specifically intended for organisers of firework displays, or events where fireworks are to be used, where the display is setup, fired and derigged by a professional display company and professional display companies as the basic information to enable them to communicate effectively with an event organiser to achieve a safe and effective display.

Giving Your Own Firework Display – The Red Firework Guide – The advice in this publication covers only those firework displays, normally at pubs, clubs or charity gatherings, where the organisers set off the fireworks themselves and have no specialist knowledge.

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Emergency services issue guidance ahead of ‘different’ bonfire period

South Yorkshire’s emergency services are urging people to be sensible and stay safe over the coming weeks, during what they say will be a ‘very different’ bonfire period for everyone.

Trick or treating is being discouraged, in order to prevent the spread of Covid-19, as are Halloween and bonfire parties that break the current social distancing rules set out by the Government.

Meanwhile, firefighters are asking people to take extra care with fireworks and to avoid having garden bonfires that could grow out of control and tie up fire service resources.

The guidance comes as part of Operation Dark Nights – a campaign that is run jointly by the county’s three emergency services each year.

“We know how much people look forward to Halloween and the bonfire period, and clearly we don’t want to spoil the party after a tough year, but it’s so important that people stay safe,” said South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue’s Station Manager Steve Jones, who helps lead the joint police and fire community safety department.

“With big, organised bonfire and firework displays being cancelled across the county, we expect people will be tempted to do their own. This is fine, but we do ask that people be sensible and take note of our advice around this.”

“Firstly, we really don’t want people be having garden bonfires. They spread so easily and tie up our resources. However, if you must have one, keep it away from trees, sheds and fences, and never use petrol or other accelerants to get it going.

“Secondly, if you’re going to use fireworks, only use genuine ones, follow the manufacturer’s instructions and, please, be sensible. Also, remember there are laws around when you can and can’t set them off.

“Last, but not least, is a plea around helping stop the spread of coronavirus. Please ensure you stick to the current laws and guidance. We all need to keep doing our bit and not use Bonfire Night as an excuse to let our guards down.”

Traditionally, staff from both the police and fire service have visited schools to talk to children about anti-social behaviour, trick or treating, fireworks and all things Bonfire Night. These visits won’t be taking place this year, due to the pandemic.

However, a joint effort between both agencies means that school pupils will still be getting vital input on these subjects. Instead of visiting each school, firefighters and police officers have filmed a series of videos that will be played in classrooms across South Yorkshire.

South Yorkshire Police Superintendent Sarah Poolman said: “We know this year will be different for everyone, but we want to ensure that however you celebrate, you are safe.

“It is important that whilst celebrating we don’t forget about Covid-19 and remember that we all still have a responsibility to keep each other safe.

“Your neighbourhood officers will be on patrol in the evenings to tackle any anti-social behaviour and breaches of the Covid-19 guidelines.

“As we increase our patrols, please remember that this is an extremely busy time for officers and call takers in the control room. We are asking our communities to think before you call 999 or 101.

“We have to prioritise the calls coming in to ensure our officers can respond to the most time critical and serious of incidents. We are asking those reporting a non-emergency crime do so through the online reporting form on our website.”

Speaking on behalf of Yorkshire Ambulance Service, Locality Manager, Jeremy Seymour, said: “The volume of work for Yorkshire Ambulance Service has significantly increased over the last two weeks and this has been reflected in the change to the local COVID Alert level this week in South Yorkshire.

“The Ambulance Service, as well as all local hospitals, are working extremely hard to provide the services everyone needs and deserves. We will continue to provide the emergency pre hospital care and support whenever and wherever we are needed.

“Please help us to protect you and the people closest to you by continuing to follow the advice given and support the Ambulance service to concentrate on those most in need.”

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Fire service exhibition goes digital to mark Black History Month

South Yorkshire’s fire service is taking its one-of-a-kind Black History Month exhibition online this October, in a bid to attract more people from BAME backgrounds to consider a fire and rescue service career.

Family, which was put together last year to pay homage to the diverse heritage of fire service staff, features portrait photographs of 11 employees past and present.

The portraits were exhibited at various locations across Sheffield last October – including the train station, Winter Gardens and Moor Market – inspiring a huge increase in people from African and Caribbean backgrounds registering their interest in a career with the service.

And now, ahead of this year’s Black History Month, South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue is taking the exhibition online to showcase the photographs in a COVID-safe way.

One thing that does remain the same, fire officers say, is the aim – to celebrate the contribution of staff and encourage more people, with diverse heritage, to consider a job within the fire service.

“We were keen to showcase the exhibition once again this year, following the fantastic reaction we had last year, but sadly most of the public places we had in mind are either closed or extremely quiet,” said Station Manager Delroy Galloway, who features in the exhibition and played a crucial role in pulling it together.

“However, fire services are used to having to adapt, and that’s what we have done. I’m delighted that we’re still going to be able to showcase the wonderful images and tell the stories of the people behind them.

“We want to show people from BAME backgrounds that a career in the fire and rescue service could be for them, and I’d really encourage anyone thinking about it to check out the digital exhibition, get inspired and register their interest with us today.”

Each of the portraits featured on the website were taken by Orestes Rix, a member of the service’s finance team who specialises in portrait photography outside his day job.

Click here to see the online exhibition, which includes the photographs and additional detail around why Black History Month is so important.

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Fire service issues ‘don’t cook drunk’ plea to students this winter

Fire officers in Sheffield are asking local students not to cook whilst drunk this winter and, instead, help keep fire engines free for more serious emergencies.

The plea follows the Government’s recent announcement that pubs must now close at 10pm, which firefighters feel could prompt an increase in home drinking, cooking and parties.

They say that this, in turn, could lead to an increase in call outs to student accommodation across the city – something South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue is keen to prevent.

“We absolutely recognise how important it is that students enjoy their time at university, especially with what’s going on in the world right now, but we want to make sure they do it safely,” said Station Manager John Billings, who heads up the team at Central fire station.

“Something we’re very mindful of is that, with pubs now closing earlier to help stop the spread of COVID-19, students may be inclined to take the party back to their accommodation. We’ve no problem with this.

“Where we may have a problem, however, is if people start to act carelessly. From our perspective this can be extremely dangerous. Time and time again we are called to fires which have started when people have left the oven on and forgotten, or fallen asleep, due to alcohol or drugs.

“We’ve also attended lots of false alarms in the past where students have set fire alarms off for fun, or e-cigarettes and smoking have triggered smoke detection systems. Alcohol has been known to play a part in many of these cases, too.”

In order to reduce the risk to students, and to prevent an increase in calls, the service is asking them to do three things:

  • Get a takeaway rather than cooking drunk
  • Be mindful of smoke alarms when vaping or smoking
  • Do not use fire alarm call points unless there is a genuine emergency

These requests, which officers feel are reasonable, come ahead of a national Student Safety Week in October that SYFR has pledged to support.

“We think what we’re asking is fair and simple – we’re not trying to spoil anyone’s fun and don’t believe what we’re asking will have a huge impact on any big nights in,” added John.

“What it will do, though, is keep people safe, prevent our crews having to crash any parties and stop accommodation from being damaged or destroyed by fire.”

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Recruitment opens for on-call firefighters across South Yorkshire

Six fire stations across South Yorkshire are recruiting now for on-call firefighters, with anyone interested urged to act quickly before the current recruitment window closes.

New recruits are needed at Penistone, Stocksbridge, Askern, Rossington, Birley and Dearne to help crews there respond to emergency calls and carry out important prevention work.

Anyone interested is urged to register their interest on the service’s website, here. Information about the next steps will then be sent out in due course.

On-call firefighters are local people who live or work within five minutes of their stations. They carry a pager when they are on-duty that alerts them when they are needed.

“The role our on-call firefighters play is vital – these are extraordinary people who drop everything when needed to attend emergency incidents in their local areas,” said SYFR Station Manager, Chris Tyler.

“They are given the same training as our full-time firefighters and, rightly, get exactly the same buzz, camaraderie and kudos that comes with such an important job.

“Our recruitment window will close at the end of September so I’d encourage anyone who wants to test themselves and fulfil this common childhood dream to act now.

“That especially includes anyone who is unsure whether this is the job for them. These are flexible roles and we will support people who have the right attitude and commitment.”

On-call staff are paid an annual ‘retainer’ fee and then get paid for each incident they attend. They are also paid for any community work they carry out and weekly training on station.

The flexible and adaptable nature of on-call firefighting means that it can be done on top of other full-time work, study or family commitments.

More information on the role can be found here. Alternatively, www.oncallfire.uk provides more detail about the major, national on-call recruitment drive that was launched last year.

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Sheffield mum makes smoke alarm plea as part of new fire service campaign

Firefighters across South Yorkshire are urging the county’s residents to sign up to their free smoke alarm reminder service – www.pressthebutton.co.uk – as part of a new campaign.

They are backed by Rachael Shaw, a mum from Sheffield who had her home in Parsons Cross destroyed by fire earlier this year.

Rachael, her partner and daughter were in bed one night in April when working smoke alarms alerted them to an electrical fire in the living room below.

The fire had developed quickly and thick smoke prevented them from escaping – meaning they had to be rescued from a bedroom window by firefighting crews.

And now, with their house still in ruins, they are living proof that, as South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue (SYFR) regularly reminds people, smoke alarms save lives.

“Luckily we heard the smoke alarm and smelt the smoke. If it wasn’t for the smoke alarm, realistically we wouldn’t have known. It never crossed my mind that the house was on fire.

“Smoke alarms… I never thought they were that important and now they’ve literally saved our lives.”

Speaking of the service’s new campaign, Yesterday You Said Tomorrow, officers say they’re hoping they can motivate people to stop procrastinating and ensure they have alarms in place.

Latest figures released by SYFR show that out of the 486 accidental dwelling fires crews dealt with last year, 102 of the homes attended didn’t have any smoke alarms.

A deeper look at incident data then shows that in the 384 cases where smoke alarms were present, not all of them sounded – either due to them not working or not being positioned correctly.

This makes 238 instances in 2019 where smoke alarms either weren’t present or didn’t sound – this is 49 percent of the 486 houses fires attended by firefighters.

“We’ve spent over a decade now asking people to ensure they have working smoke alarms, and test them regularly,” said Group Manager Matt Gillatt, deputy head of the police and fire community safety team.

“Lots of people have and we’re truly grateful to them but, as these figures show, at almost half of the fires we attended last year there were either no smoke alarms, or the ones present didn’t work as they should.

“Our ask is really clear – we want people to ensure they have working smoke alarms on every level of their home. Then, we want them to make a habit of testing them weekly.

“We offer a free weekly reminder service that people can sign up to and for anybody that needs extra support, we offer home safety checks that can be booked through our website.

“The incident involving Rachael and her family is a really clear example of how important smoke alarms can be – get them, fit them, test them.”

You can sign up to the service’s free reminder service at www.pressthebutton.co.uk and can book a free home safety visit at www.syfire.gov.uk.

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Service thanks public after ‘against all odds’ garden fire reduction

Firefighters say a push to reduce garden fires during the national lockdown has been a huge success, despite the period being the driest in recent history.

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue saw a ‘huge’ spike in garden-related fires towards the end of March this year, with people opting to burn waste in the absence of waste recycling centres.

This prompted the service to launch its ‘Take The Pledge’ garden fire initiative – during which officers urged people not to have bonfires during the on-going pandemic.

The result, statistics show, was a reduction in incidents during the campaign period – April and May – in comparison to previous, similar years.

“Incident figures generally speak for themselves but these don’t tell the whole story,” said Area Manager Simon Dunker, head of the joint police and fire community safety team.

“Rainfall data suggests that this year’s April and May were the driest they have been in the last five years, at least. This, as well as the fact that waste recycling centres were closed and the whole country was in a national lockdown, makes a reduction quite remarkable.

“On behalf of the service I’d like to say a huge thank you to the public for taking on board our messaging – supporting us and their neighbours. I’d also like to say a big thank you to our staff who consistently go above and beyond to make South Yorkshire safer.”

As well as a spike in incidents, officers say their campaign was also driven by a flurry of complaints from residents who were struggling to get out in their gardens due to bonfires.

The service attended 533 garden related incidents during April and May this year. This is five percent less than the 563 attended during the same period in 2017 and two percent less than in 2019 – with both of these years experiencing similarly dry springs.

Over a thousand people pledged not to have bonfires during the pandemic and many more got in touch with the service to offer support and ask for advice around controlled burns.

You can still take the pledge not to have a garden fire this summer here.

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Family makes open water plea as fire service launches ‘Dying For A Dip’ campaign

The family of an ‘amazing lad’ who died after jumping in a lake is calling for people to stay out of open water this summer.

Taylor Matthews, known as Tay, tragically passed away after jumping into the water at Skelbrooke Quarry, from a bank around 30ft high, in July 2018.

The inquest into his death ruled that Tay died from immersion, with his body instantly shutting down due to the cold water.

And now, as part of South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue’s new Dying For A Dip campaign, his aunt, Toni Matthews, is pleading with people to not follow in Tay’s footsteps.

“Taylor was a strong swimmer but when he entered the cold water, and his body shut down, there was absolutely nothing he could do,” she said.

“People really don’t have any idea how dangerous open water can be. We don’t want any family to have to go through the pain we’ve suffered.

“To anyone even considering going for a dip in open water, planned or not, please don’t do it. And if you’ve got kids, make sure they know how dangerous it is.”

The collective message and campaign launch – which is also backed by agencies such as Yorkshire Water and FCC Environment, the company that looks after Skelbrooke Quarry – comes after the Royal Life Saving Society’s Drowning Prevention Week (12 to 19 June).

Station Manager Tom Hirst, one of South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue’s water safety leads, said: “What happened to Taylor was an absolute tragedy. It’s one of several similar incidents in Yorkshire over the last few years and each one is equally as heart breaking for their families.

“We want people to enjoy the warmer months and our amazing countryside, but we don’t want you entering bodies of open water, such as quarries, lakes and reservoirs, due to the hazards they present.

“Even when the sun is out the water can be so cold. You have no idea what lies underneath and hidden currents can overcome even the strongest of swimmers.

“Our advice is simple – unless you are part of an organised, supervised swimming group then please stay well clear of open water, as we don’t want any more families to have to go through the heart ache of a water related fatality like this one.

“It’s also worth pointing out that around half of the people who get in bother don’t intend to enter the water at all. So, if you are near rivers or lakes, please be extra careful & don’t get too close.”

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Safe & Well – update for partners

We are continuing to carry out high risk home safety visits only, in order to protect our staff and the public we serve.

This is due to the on-going coronavirus pandemic that has also forced us to suspend all school visits, cancel station-based events and close the Lifewise Centre in Rotherham.

We are still encouraging people to make safe & well referrals and request home safety checks – there will just be a delay in us carrying these out unless they are deemed as immediately high risk.

The term ‘risk’ means different things to different agencies but partners should be assured that we will get round to handling each referral as soon as possible.

Anyone deemed as being extremely vulnerable to fire will receive a visit from one of our Fire Community Support Officers.

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Service hails ‘life saving’ sprinklers as part of awareness week

South Yorkshire’s fire service is seeking to remind people this week that sprinklers save lives, as part of a national ‘Think Sprinkler’ awareness campaign.

The message comes after a retrofitted system stopped a chip pan fire, which could otherwise have seriously hurt two sleeping occupants and destroyed their Doncaster flat, in its tracks earlier this year.

It also comes only months after the service revealed that a £1million sprinkler fund, put aside by the South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Authority, has part-funded 20 installations over the last five years.

These installations have seen around 650 flats, which are home to some of the county’s most vulnerable people, be fitted with the life-saving devices.

“I’ve said before that sprinklers are a reliable and cost-effective way of stopping fires from growing and spreading – this incident proved that,” said Roger Brason, South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue’s sprinkler advocate.

“These devices really do save lives and we were keen to support the Think Sprinkler to remind people how effective they are, offer some insight into how they work and dispel any myths – starting with the fact that the chance of a sprinkler malfunction is 16 million to one!

“We’ve done a lot of work in the last five years to make these installations happen and are proud to have built a reputation as a leading fire and rescue service when it comes to advocating sprinklers, but there’s always more to do.

“We want to see more sprinkler systems in more buildings across South Yorkshire – particularly in residential settings. I’d encourage any building owners that want to know more about the benefits that sprinklers bring to get in touch.”

The incident earlier this year took place on Hatfield House, which is managed by St Leger Homes who – with the support of Doncaster Council and SYFR – have had sprinklers fitted in all nine of their high rise buildings across the borough.

Other part-funded projects include Churchfield Sheltered Housing in Barnsley and the St Wilfrid’s Centre in Sheffield – the latter seeing a system installed in a new, 20-bed residence that houses adults with complex needs.

Sprinkler Week is led by the National Fire Chiefs Council, supported by fire services across the country, and runs from Monday 18 to Sunday 24 May.

You can find out more about the wide range of benefits sprinklers bring, as well as the service’s position on them, at www.syfire.gov.uk.

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