16th October 2018
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Foula and Skerries fire stations no longer sustainable, says report

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Fire stations in Foula and Skerries will face the axe when members of the Highlands and Islands Fire Board meet in Inverness on Friday.

The future of the small units have been in doubt for some time, but a report going before the board highlights a number of key deficiencies.

Foula, in particular, falls short of the required mark. The report says it has received only six emergency calls in five years.

But the six personnel members – a unit of Foula’s size should ideally have a 12-strong crew – have been unable to respond to any of the call-outs, according to the findings.

During that time the unit has cost the board around £100,000. Another £200,000 or more in capital investment would have to be made if the unit was to continue operating.

Foula failed to make the grade in five key criteria areas of personnel, physical attributes, commitment, training and best value and wellbeing.

The report states: “Due to the inability for Foula to meet the board’s agreed sustainability criteria, combined with low levels of activity and risk, Foula retained station is deemed unsustainable.

“Emergency cover will continue to be provided from the mainland along with a bespoke prevention and protection action plan put in place.”

The report says the same about Skerries, the other island station under threat.  

The station does at least get a green light for personnel and physical attributes, with nine crew members meaning sufficient numbers of retained firefighters are active.

But its personnel are unable to fulfil their contractual commitment to be available for emergency cover. The unit has been unable to achieve that standard since its inception in 2005.

The report also highlights very low levels of activity and risk in Skerries, and staff are unable to demonstrate competent training.

“The unit has received only two emergency calls (grass fire and flooded boat) in five years,” the report states.

“The unit has cost the board circa £222,000 in the last five years and this would continue to a minimum of circa £225,000 over five years. The board would be required to invest circa £200,000 in capital investment if the unit was to continue.”

Shetland will be represented at Friday’s meeting by local board members Allison Duncan and Alastair Cooper.

Mr Duncan said he would make no comment on the closures until after the board had made its decision.

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About Ryan Taylor

Ryan Taylor has worked as a reporter since 1995, and has been at The Shetland Times since 2007, covering a wide variety of news topics. Before then he reported for other newspapers in the Highlands, where he was raised, and in Fife, where he began his career with DC Thomson. He also has experience in broadcast journalism with Grampian Television. He has lived in Shetland since 2002, where he harbours an unhealthy interest in old cars and motorbikes.

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3 comments

  1. Leona Gear

    This article is completely inaccurate and the writer should perhaps look through the archives as I can provide the link to at least one story covering an incident attended and handled by the Foula Fire Service (https://www.shetlandtimes.co.uk/2009/08/07/foula-folk-pluck-lucky-kiss-kiss-from-cliff-face ), all the incidents have been attended by the Foula Fire service however sometimes they have needed the additional support of the “emergency response” although it takes them up to three hours to arrive.

    I think it is disgusting that such a low value is put on life. £200,000 is not worth more than human life. I am also disgusted with the Highlands and Islands Fire Service as they keep changing their numbers, the last time they wanted to close down the Foula Fire Service 6 were needed to keep it open. Now there are six so they up the number. The total discrimination against remote places is disgusting are there lives worth less than those in towns? I hope not but I fear that this move proves the Fire service at least think so. Just remember, it only takes one person to start a fire.

    Reply
  2. Ron Stronach

    How many people live on Foula these days?

    Reply
  3. Leona Gear

    Irrelevant Ron. But 30

    Reply

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