No sta­tion clo­sures, pledges fire chief.

De­pute chief of­fi­cer re­peats pledge not to close city sites, although shar­ing bases with am­bu­lance crews likely

The Courier & Advertiser (Angus and The Mearns Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - NA­DIA VIDINOVA nvidi­nova@the­courier.co.uk

The chief of­fi­cer him­self has given the com­mit­ment that there are no sta­tion clo­sures that are go­ing to hap­pen in Dundee. IAIN BUSHELL

There will be no fire sta­tion clo­sures in Dundee de­spite fall­ing fire­fighter num­bers across the coun­try, man­agers have promised.

The pledge came af­ter Dundee was hit by three ma­jor fires in as many days – a farm at Strath­mar­tine, Brae­view Academy and Hill­town In­door Mar­ket – with city fire crews work­ing at full ca­pac­ity and bor­row­ing ad­di­tional re­sources from sur­round­ing ar­eas.

How­ever, it is likely fire and am­bu­lance crews will in­creas­ingly share fa­cil­i­ties in a bid to save money.

In an ex­clu­sive in­ter­view with the Courier, the Scot­tish Fire and Res­cue Ser­vice de­pute chief of­fi­cer Iain Bushell re­it­er­ated prom­ises that the city’s four sta­tions on Ma­calpine Road, Black­ness Road, Kingsway East and Bal­mossie in Broughty Ferry would re­main open.

There had been fears some of Dundee’s fa­cil­i­ties and re­sources could be un­der threat af­ter doc­u­ments sent to se­nior staff had sug­gested the cur­rent staffing model was un­sus­tain­able and any cuts would pre­dom­i­nantly be in ur­ban lo­ca­tions.

Mr Bushell said: “The chief of­fi­cer him­self has given the com­mit­ment that there are no sta­tion clo­sures that are go­ing to hap­pen in Dundee.

“In fact, re­cently what we have done is bring more re­sources into the Dundee area and specif­i­cally into Bal­mossie, be­cause we are now shar­ing that fa­cil­ity with the Scot­tish Am­bu­lance Ser­vice.

“So not only are we pro­vid­ing a bet­ter ser­vice for that area of Dundee, but we’re also sav­ing tax­pay­ers’ money by com­bin­ing ser­vices and shar­ing fa­cil­i­ties. It’s some­thing that we are look­ing to do more and more in the fu­ture.”

Fall­ing fire­fighter num­bers were at­trib­uted to an age­ing work­force, with re­tire­ments bring­ing down the head count. Be­tween 140 and 160 fire­fight­ers across Scot­land re­tire each year. Re­cruit­ment drives are in place to at­tract young peo­ple, as well as women and eth­nic mi­nori­ties.

Those were re­ported to be go­ing well, although bosses ad­mit­ted that there were still “chal­lenges”. Among these were po­ten­tial ap­pli­cants from di­verse back­grounds be­ing put off a ca­reer in fire­fight­ing, as it was still said to be stereo­typ­i­cally viewed as a “job for white men”.

There have been 4,000 ap­pli­ca­tions, with 299 peo­ple hired over the past year across Scot­land.

Ad­dress­ing the au­di­ence at the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s an­nual per­for­mance re­view in Dundee this week, Kirsty Dar­went, chair­woman of the SFRS board, said: “I can ab­so­lutely as­sure you that although the num­bers (of op­er­a­tional fire­fight­ers) have de­creased, safety of the peo­ple of Scot­land is ab­so­lute pri­or­ity.

“It is all about putting re­sources where they are most needed, as ev­i­denced in Dundee, where there were crews from Fife and other ar­eas help­ing at the Brae­view fire.”

Alas­dair Hay, SFRC chief of­fi­cer, added: “De­spite some of the chal­lenges, we are still ful­fill­ing our du­ties.

“It’s not just about di­rect ac­tions, but also in­di­rect ac­tiv­i­ties.

“Part of our work is about deal­ing with prob­lems in ad­vance rather than wait­ing un­til they arise. For ex­am­ple, we have taken on 105 new trainees to pre­vent staff short­ages in fu­ture.

“I ap­pre­ci­ate the kind words about the work that was done by fire­fight­ers at Brae­view Academy. That is repli­cated across Scot­land.”

As­pate of dev­as­tat­ing fires in Dundee has brought the is­sue of emer­gency ser­vice cover across Tay­side and Fife sharply into fo­cus.

On suc­ces­sive nights, fire ser­vices in the city were stretched to their lim­its as, first, Brae­view Academy was se­verely dam­aged and then, Hill­town In­door Mar­ket was gut­ted.

As a pre­cur­sor, a farm build­ing was burned down on Mon­day night, with live­stock killed in the in­ferno.

The wel­come pledge by de­pute chief of­fi­cer Iain Bushell that no sta­tions will be closed in Dundee could not have come at a bet­ter time.

How­ever, there was an ac­com­pa­ny­ing com­mit­ment to shar­ing fire and res­cue re­sources be­tween re­gions.

The ef­fort to tackle Tues­day’s school fire, which saw ap­pli­ances at­tend Dundee from Perth, Fife and An­gus, was highly com­mend­able and showed how the sys­tem can work in cer­tain cir­cum­stances.

How­ever, it is fair to ask what would hap­pen if a sec­ond, and third, ma­jor emer­gency had been called in an­other part of the coun­try.

At present, we are deal­ing in hy­po­thet­i­cals – and there can never be enough crews to deal with ev­ery even­tu­al­ity – but such a sce­nario must be weigh­ing on the minds of those tasked with al­lo­cat­ing re­sources.

Fur­ther cuts are com­ing, un­fair as that may be — they can­not com­pro­mise safety.

Pic­tures: Mhairi Ed­wards.

Above: Iain Bushell, Scot­tish Fire and Res­cue Ser­vice de­pute chief of­fi­cer. Below: fire crews at the Strath­mar­tine farm fire.

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