Folk in Bressay are without a fire crew because two firemen have refused to shave off their beards in the lead up to its Up-Helly-A’ celebrations.
Allison Duncan vice-chairman of the Shetland community safety forum branded the decision as “crazy”.
He said four crewmen need to be clean-shaven in order to go out on operations. This, said Mr Duncan was for health and safety reasons – so breathing apparatus could be worn correctly.
Mr Duncan said he had “spent hours” trying to broker a deal with the unnamed firemen, but to no avail.
The island, which has about 360 residents, has, with the exception of one week, been without a crew since November.
He said unless the men shave off their beards there would be no local provision until March, or possibly later.
“I have to say that senior management [at the fire service] have tried to make compromises with the fire fighters but without success. I can assure you they have gone the golden mile plus,” he said.
“It’s absolutely crazy that two firefighters can go down this route and hold the fire service to account. This is a case of the tail wagging the dog and as soon as this is resolved, the better.”
Mr Duncan added there were elderly folk on the island and was worried an accident could happen at any time.
“They are putting one night’s pleasure in Bressay before their duties,” he said and Lerwick fire crews had been covering in their absence.
Disciplinary action has now been commenced against both firemen, said Mr Duncan.
A statement from The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service said it will provide cover in Bressay for Up-Helly-A’.
“The service understands the importance of local events to its residents and the fact that a number of SFRS staff will want to be involved.
“In many remote areas, such as Bressay, the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service acknowledges the important role played by its retained firefighters and its responsibility to help balance crews’ home, family and social lives with that of their day job and commitment to their fire and rescue role.
“In the run up to Bressay’s Up-Helly-A’ event, fire cover will be provided by crews in Lerwick, as SFRS understands it has a duty to protect communities at all times.
“Prevention and protection staff have, over the past week, been undertaking leaflet drops and promoting home fire safety visits to reduce the risk within homes on the island.”
Local senior officer for the Shetland, Orkney and Western Isles, Billy Wilson said: “Prevention of fire is key in terms of being safe within the home, but householders should also make plans and familiarise themselves with what to do in the highly unlikely event of a fire occurring.
“The emergency response to Bressay during the period will be provided by retained firefighters from Lerwick Fire Station, using well-rehearsed procedures developed jointly with our community planning partners.”
He added: “Our retained staff do an excellent job and we recognise that the history and culture of a community will influence when members of a station may require time away from the service. It is crucial as a service that we balance that with the wider issue of public safety and for that reason we have developed contingency plans.”
Bressay resident and SIC councillor Jonathan Wills, said the situation seemed “a bit bureaucratic” and there was both a ridiculous side and a serious side to the matter.
“It just seems silly it has arisen,” he said.
Dr Wills said the community wanted to have a fire engine in Bressay in order to respond to an emergency immediately.
But with a Lerwick crew responding it could take an extra half an hour.
The island was lucky to have fire volunteers, said Dr Wills and there should be a bit of “coming and going and a bit of compromise.”
He was not aware of the Lerwick crew being called out to the island.
“It’s no laughing matter and I just hope it can be sorted as quickly as possible,” he said.