MAJOR changes are afoot at Lerwick Fire Station with the brigade among the first in Scotland to be in receipt of two advanced new fire engines.
And on Monday 1 October staff of the Scottish Ambulance Service are due to join their fire fighting colleagues at Sea Road in a transfer from their old and cramped premises at Montfield.
The services will have their own working areas and shared messroom, with a handful of full-time firefighters and up to 11 ambulance staff using the station. One ambulance will be housed inside along with the fire engines and there are bays for the other two outside.
Wednesday 26 September was also a return to the station for new group manager Matt Mason who had to vacate his desk to make way for the builders after his first day in the job 14 weeks ago.
The new appliances, which cram a considerable array of equipment into their compact seven tonnes, will be stationed at Bressay and Bixter, but will be used elsewhere if needed.
Among the most impressive pieces of gear carried by the Rapid Response Units is an ultra high pressure lance that uses an abrasive mixed with water to cut through concrete or metal and allow firefighters to douse a blaze without even entering the building.
Mason said: “These are state of the art appliances brought in, really, for our rural communities. They have got trauma bags and defibrillators in the emergency medical response kit.
“Getting a quick medical response from our fire crews, supplementing the ambulance service here, will be really beneficial to our rural communities.
“In the new fire fighting kit are ultra high pressure lances which are able to cut through brick and block work to be able to make a rapid intervention on a fire safely for our crews from outside the building.”
The fine spray from the lances, which are far lighter and handier to use than old-fashioned large-diameter hoses, can dramatically cool the air temperature in a burning building in quick time, all without a large breach in a wall that could fan a blaze.
Mason, who previously was in a similar post in Devon and Somerset, was equally enthusiastic about sharing the space with the ambulance service.
He added: “We have worked for years and years with our ambulance colleagues really closely, but being co-located here in Lerwick will really enhance that and see us working much closer together and really understanding each other’s roles.”
So far the fire fighters have learned resuscitation and defibrillator techniques while the ambulance personnel have been boning up on extraction techniques and working at heights with ladders.
Mason was also up-beat about a new full-time rural fire fighter post that is being advertised. “It will be an operational staff member, but also a much wider role than that supporting the rural communities – community safety engagement. Also helping and advising local businesses on how to stay compliant and stay safe when they operate. They will be supporting our rural stations in recruitment and training, so it is a really really varied and really exciting role,” he added.
Chairman of the community safety and resilience board Alastair Cooper said what impressed him most was that the ambulance service and the fire service were co-locating in one building.
He added: “It is a far better location for the ambulance service and it is a far better facility for them for 24 hour cover. Burra Road is not the best location to get in and out of I think this gives them far more open access. It has been a long time coming but we are here now.”
He was also impressed by the new vehicles – 40 of which are being deployed throughout Scotland, including six in Shetland, Orkney and the Western Isles. “It is the forefront of technology in terms of fire fighting and I would certainly think they are going to be needed throughout Shetland. My understanding is that though they will be located in Bressay and Bixter they could be brought out to fight fires where the technology they employ would be best used”.
Chris Rice, who is Scottish Ambulance Service joint team leader in Lerwick along with Angus Galbraith, with the imminent retirement of Peter Smith, said that the new station was much bigger and better than the old place with ample opportunities for inter-professional working.
“The plan is to move in and get things the way that we want them and to liaise with our fire colleagues and hopefully do a bit more continuation training with them,” he said.