NHS Shetland - Survey - March 2021

Another delay to an out-of-town fire call out

FRESH concerns have been raised over the shortage of fire fighters in Shetland after two people were left trapped in their car waiting for crews to drive more than 18 miles to a road accident near Voe on Tuesday afternoon.

The two occupants suffered minor injuries after being cut free from their Land Rover Freelander after the two-vehicle collision near the B9076 junction, which saw roads closed for around two hours with tailbacks more than a mile long.

Two fire appliances from Lerwick and Scalloway had to be called in as the station in Brae, just five miles away, could not muster a crew until the incident had been dealt with due to work commitments.

It is the second time this year that concerns over Shetland’s fire service recruitment have been raised.

In January crews from Lerwick and Scalloway took around 40 minutes to attend a fire in an unoccupied house in Hillswick because the village’s station, less than one mile away, was undermanned.

The Scottish Fire And Rescue Service said there had been a healthy response to their recent recruitment drive and they hoped to appoint retained firefighters soon.

Shetland manager Myles Murray said six people had applied to join the Brae station, which should have a full complement of 20, but only had eight last December.

While Lerwick’s station is well staffed, rural areas have the greatest difficulty in recruiting.

The island of Fetlar only had one retained firefighter in December, while Sumburgh had seven out of its complement of 12.

After the Hillswick fire, Shetland MSP Tavish Scott wrote to Scottish fire bosses to find out what steps they had taken to boost crew numbers in the isles, only to receive a general letter about recruitment as a response.

Speaking after the Voe accident, Scott said the discrepancy in call-out times was a “real worry” for Shetlanders.

“Recruiting voluntary fire fighters for Shetland’s rural stations remains a big challenge for the Scottish Fire And Rescue Service,” he said.

“Many people involved in the service wondered at the time of the centralisation into one body about the impact on retained fire staff. The reality is self-evident.

“Too many stations across Shetland do not have enough volunteers and despite efforts by the Scottish Fire And Rescue Service that has not got better. I see little that will change that picture.”

Meanwhile Murray said people could be reassured that there were “robust contingency arrangements” in place for all situations and every emergency would be responded to.