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Fire stations futures hang in the balance

THE FUTURE of up to six fire stations in Shetland continues to hang in the balance following a long and tense special meeting of the highlands and islands fire board in Inverness, on Friday.

Four new rural fire stations in Shetland, at Whalsay, Bressay, Fair Isle and in Walls, are under threat as the Highlands and Islands Fire Board has to find savings of £4 million.

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The station in Foula has already been temporarily suspended as training standards and workforce numbers have fallen below the required standards for fire fighter’s safety.

Chief fire officer Trevor Johnson said that smaller stations might have to close, while the current programme of new builds and the upgrading of volunteers to retained fire fighters status was unsustainable in the current climate.

Mr Johnson presented a programme whereby fire fighters in more active stations would have to undergo a more thorough training programme.

Speaking after the meeting, Shetland representative on the board, councillor Alastair Cooper said a final decision on the direction of the fire service will not be made for some time.

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“It is going to be a lengthy process. We have to deal with it and see it through, but deal with it sensitively so that we continue to provide a service to the community.

“We took it as far as we could today. We need a lot more information before we can get down to the final decision on what way we have to go in the longer term.”

The board will meet again on 2 March to consider the criteria against which to assess the future of stations.

Meanwhile, the Fire Brigades Union is urging the fire service not to close small stations across the highlands and islands area, while Shetland MSP Tavish Scott has blamed the threat of closure on the government’s intention to centralise the fire service next year.

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