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Bressay beards leave isle without fire cover

The bill head from the 2012 Bressay Up Helly Aa. Photo Kevin Osborn

THE ISLE of Bressay has lost its fire crew because two members refuse to shave off their beards ahead of the annual Viking fire festival Up Helly Aa.

The island with 360 residents has been without fire cover since November because the two men’s beards prevent them from wearing breathing apparatus in an emergency.

Fire crews from Lerwick will be ferried across the harbour should a fire break out on Bressay, while officers from the town have been handing out fire prevention advice to the island’s 360 residents.

The Vikings’ stubbornness has been condemned by Shetland community safety board vice chairman Allison Duncan, who has been trying without success to persuade the pair to lose their facial hair.

“To know that a couple of firefighters are putting the safety of Bressay people at risk is absolutely crazy, it’s mind boggling,” he said.

“There’s elderly, frail people, there could be a car accident, there was a fire at the back end of Bressay.

“I’ve done my utmost to get them to see sense and get the appliance back on the run in the interests of the Bressay people.”

Duncan confirmed that disciplinary action against two unnamed firefighters has been initiated. Guizer Jarl Lyle Tulloch who will lead this year’s fire festival said he did not want to comment.

Bressay community council vice chairman Bertie Black said the community had not officially been made aware of the fact that there was not fire cover.

He said the community council had not discussed the issue and as such he could only comment as a private person.

“I think it is disappointing to know that Bressay doesn’t have a fire service, which we thought we had.

“The solution has to be between the fire service and its employees.”