Fire service wants public to have their say on 999 response times

South Yorkshire’s fire service wants people to have their say on its work – including how quickly it should respond to different types of emergency.

We’ve today launched a consultation on how it delivers its service, with the results used to help plan its services over the next few years.

You can complete the consultation survey here

Amongst the questions it wants people’s views on are the expected response times it should set for different incidents.

The consultation will also ask people for their views on the quality of service and value for money SYFR provides taxpayers, and what people think its priorities should be over the next few years.

The results of the consultation will help to inform the service’s next Integrated Risk Management Plan. This is a plan which considers the different risks in South Yorkshire and how the fire service intends to address them with the resources it has available.

A draft plan will be submitted to the service’s governing Fire Authority in September, before further consultation with the public.

The plan is not expected to propose any cuts to firefighters, fire engines or fire stations.

The best way for people to have their say is by visiting www.syfire.gov.uk

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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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Works starts on new Barnsley fire station

Work has started this week on a brand new, energy efficient station for firefighters in Barnsley.

The existing 60-year-old, three-storey building on Broadway, Kingstone is being demolished after it had reached the end of its operational life. It’s being replaced with a new two storey, three bay facility on the same site.

A separate multi-use facility is planned to be built on the same site, which will host the service’s award-winning Princes Trust Team Programme initiative as well as providing space to hold events and meetings and bookings from community groups.

Energy saving measures will include low energy, LED lighting with motion sensors and an air source heat pump.

Firefighters will be housed in a temporary facility off-site whilst construction of the new building takes place.

The investment follows a study last year which looked at all options including a multi-million pound refurbishment which wasn’t deemed viable.

It also forms part of a wider, short to medium term approved plan to invest in the fire service’s property estate, with around a further £8 million set aside from its reserves to modernise and improve its estate over the next two years.

The investments are being made now, because of uncertainty of how much money will be available to make substantial investments like this in the future if the service’s finances continue to be squeezed.

Director of Support Services Stuart Booth, said: “One of our aspirations is to make the service a great place to work. Part of achieving that means investing in the buildings and facilities our staff use every day and we’re pleased to be making real and tangible progress towards this. We considered refurbishing the existing site, but this didn’t provide best value for money and it didn’t provide the best long term facility for our staff.”

Fire Authority Chair Cllr Robert Taylor, said: “Barnsley Fire Station is the last of the traditional and imposing divisional stations. It has been part of the landscape for over half a century and will hold many fond memories for all those who have served there and the people of Barnsley alike. It is now however time to move forward and this exciting new development will offer a 21st century fire station and facilities that will enhance both the working environment for crews and further develop the already strong community links that exist in Barnsley.”

Bond Bryan acted as architects for the project, Turner and Townsend are providing project and cost management support and JF Finnegan have been appointed as contractors.

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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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South Yorkshire amongst winners as national awards recognise women in the fire service champions

Amazing staff at the heart of championing the role of women in the fire service have been recognised as part of a major national awards scheme.

Winners of the fire sector’s ‘Women In The Fire Service’ awards include both men and women who have developed, encouraged and reinforced the role of women in the sector.

Women continue to be underrepresented in the UK fire and rescue service, with only six per cent of operational firefighters being female.

Amongst the winners at this year’s awards, which were organised by Women In The Fire Service UK, is Tim Pope from South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue.

The Organisation Development Advisor beat off competition from nine other nominees to secure the ‘Men As Allies’ award at the Women In The Fire Service annual awards.

The award recognises men working in the fire and rescue service who work to promote equality, diversity and inclusion in the UK fire sector.

As part of his role, Tim has led the service’s positive action work to inspire a more diverse range of local people to consider a role in the fire and rescue service.

Jules Kind, WFS Chair & Awards Panel judge said “ Tim is living proof that it doesn’t matter how senior you are or what role you do to be able to pack a punch and make a real difference. Being a male ally in male dominated culture can be tricky, but is such an important part of changing culture, tackling inclusion and takes the spotlight away from those who are new and/or different who are still finding their voice.”

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue’s Rebecca Savin and Fleur Holland were also shortlisted for awards, in the ‘rising star’ and ‘shining light’ categories respectively.

Established as a self-help group, WFS UK is a volunteer-led, non-profit organisation managed by a board and an elected national committee of women fire professionals. It specialises in delivering training and development events aimed at women. These events are opportunities to network, learn new skills, and mix with peers from all areas across the service.

WFS provides information and advice to women who are contemplating a career in the fire service, speaks in schools and careers fairs and at fire and rescue service equality, diversity and inclusion events.

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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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South Yorkshire house fire figures drop to all time low

The amount of house fires in South Yorkshire is the lowest it has been for 10 years, the county’s fire service has revealed.

Figures published by South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue today, Wednesday 10 June, show that firefighters attended 472 accidental dwelling fires during the last financial year – 2019/20.

That is a 13 percent reduction on the previous year – 2018/19 – during which there was 542 such incidents, and is a 29 percent reduction on the 664 attended in 2010/11.

Importantly, the fire service says, it is the first time since records began that the amount of yearly accidental house fires has been in the 400s.

“It goes without saying that this is excellent news and testament to the hard work of our staff over the last decade – during what has been a challenging time for the public sector,” said Area Manager Simon Dunker, head of the joint police and fire community safety team.

“Every home safety check, every school visit and every safety campaign has contributed towards this reduction and we must also note the co-operation of each and every member of the public who has taken on board our safety advice.

“There’s still more to be done, though. The 472 accidental house fires we had last year were 472 too many and our work to make South Yorkshire safer and stronger will carry on into the next decade, and beyond, to try and reduce these incident numbers further.”

The service has also unveiled the number of home safety visits its staff have done in the last few years, with 68,000 being logged since the start of 2016, four years ago.

Fire services are required, by the Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004, to promote fire safety and proactively help reduce the risk their communities face.

This means undertaking things such as home safety visits and safe & well checks, visiting schools and developing partnerships with other agencies that help benefit the public.

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue also prides itself on being one of the country’s leading fire and rescue services when it comes to delivering community safety campaigns.

Its recent Protect Your Pets campaign helped reduce electrical fires by 30 percent – whilst the Do Your Bit campaign drove down deliberate fires set during the summer months.

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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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