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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Praise for control room staff after flat fire rescue

Staff within South Yorkshire’s fire control room – who take the fire service’s 999 emergency calls – have been praised by the county’s Chief Fire Officer after a recent flat fire in Sheffield.

Firefighters were mobilised to the blaze on Wensley Green, Sheffield, at 10.19am on Friday 1 May – with a man understood to be trapped and a bedroom well alight.

As the crews travelled to the flat, from Elm Lane and Central fire stations, they were given specific information around the location of the man.

This information, which came from control blue watch, meant the first firefighters in attendance could make an immediate rescue, without delay.

Following the incident, which ended with the man safely rescued, crews described the control room staff as angels on their shoulders.

“Our firefighters do an incredible job, often putting themselves at great risk to help others, but it’s so important to remember the life-saving work of our control operators, too,” said Chief Fire Officer, Alex Johnson.

“Not only do they co-ordinate our incident response, ensuring fire engines get to the right place at the right time, they gather a huge amount of vital information for firefighters on the ground. This incident is a really good example of that.

“They also, time and time again, provide fire survival guidance for people in their darkest moments – offering a reassuring voice and advice on how to stay safe until fire crews arrive. I’d like to say a big thank you to every single one of them.”

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Service thanks communities for keeping fire safe during lockdown

Property fires across South Yorkshire look to have dropped by almost a quarter during lockdown, according to the county’s fire service.

The reduction, South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue says, is pleasing – with firefighters expecting a slight increase due to large amounts of people spending more time at home.

Latest figures show that crews attended 157 primary fire incidents across Sheffield, Rotherham, Doncaster and Barnsley, between 23 March and 23 April. This, when compared to the same time periods in recent years, is a reduction of 23 percent.

Primary fires involve traditional house fires as well as other insurable property such as commercial properties, vehicles and larger outbuildings.

This comes after the service launched a lockdown-specific safety campaign, Keep Fire Safe, on Saturday 21 March – just days before the Government’s instruction on staying home.

Assistant Chief Fire Officer, Tony Carlin, said: “The drop is down to the hard work of staff, as well as the public’s co-operation, during the on-going pandemic.

“At such a challenging time, when we expected to see a slight increase in incidents due to people spending so much more time at home, this is really welcome news.

“Our operational fire crews and dedicated fire safety teams have been working hard since lockdown began – making welfare calls to those who may be vulnerable, dropping smoke alarms off, engaging with businesses and more – and it’s clearly made a positive difference.

“This reduction in calls is also down to people across South Yorkshire who have taken on board our advice and taken steps to protect themselves, and their loved ones, from fire. They are our heroes right now and they have played their part so well.

“I’d like to thank them, and will also be thanking our staff, for their efforts. These are tough times for us all but we will get through it together, and I’d urge everyone to continue to follow Government advice during the lockdown.”

More information on the service’s latest campaign is available at www.syfire.gov.uk where you will find a safety quiz that gives entrants a chance to win one of two, £100 Amazon vouchers.

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Saying no to garden fires during the on-going pandemic

Firefighters across South Yorkshire are asking people to pledge not to have a garden fire during the on-going COVID-19 pandemic.

This latest plea comes as South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue saw a huge spike in garden fires during the last week in March – a 161 percent increase compared to a normal week.

The service has also been contacted by a number of residents who have found it hard to physically leave their homes to exercise, due to the smoke coming from local garden fires where people have been burning garden and household waste.

Their message is also being backed by local authorities across the county, with an increase in air pollution being shown to negatively affect the health of those with respiratory illnesses.

“We fully appreciate that people will have excess waste, given they are spending much more time at home, but we would really discourage people from burning it off in the garden,” said Station Manager Steve Jones, who works in the joint police and fire community safety team.

“If a garden fire gets out of control, which so easily happens, we have to send a full crew to deal with it. The smoke can also cause real issues for people with respiratory illnesses – we’ve had reports from some people who haven’t been able to go out in their own gardens.

“At a time when we all need to come together we’re asking that, whilst they’re staying at home, people head to our website and pledge not to have a garden fire during the on-going pandemic – it only takes 30 seconds and will make a big difference.”

To sign the pledge, visit www.syfire.gov.uk/pledge.

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Take the pledge – no bonfires during the pandemic

In pledging not to have a garden fire during the on-going pandemic, you will be supporting your firefighters and people with respiratory illnesses. Every pledge makes a difference.

#KeepFireSafe - Garden Fire Pledge V2

    This helps us identify where we need to target our appeal, next.
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Personal protective equipment (PPE) on its way to South Yorkshire social care teams

A delivery of personal protective equipment which arrived in South Yorkshire yesterday, is now on its way to social care teams across the county.

Hundreds of thousands of pieces of kit including aprons, gloves and masks were delivered to South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue’s training centre in Sheffield yesterday afternoon (Monday 6 April).

It was there that military planners and fire and rescue service staff broke down the supplies and delivered them to the local authorities in Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield for distribution to front line workers.

The equipment had been sent to South Yorkshire from the government’s national distribution centre.

Chief Fire Officer Alex Johnson said: “Workers are right on the frontline of caring for some of the most vulnerable and isolated people in our communities, so we were pleased to be able to play a small part in getting this equipment to the staff who need it.

“I’m proud of our staff for stepping up at short notice to make it happen and understanding the important role the fire and rescue service can play in supporting our partners and our communities.”

South Yorkshire’s response to the pandemic is being coordinated as a collective effort by multiple agencies, including emergency services, health bodies and local authorities.

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