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Emergency services / Three new training staff set to join local fire service

The Lerwick Community Fire & Ambulance Station. Photo: Shetland News

THE FIRE service hopes that three new training staff will soon join the ranks in Shetland to support local crews.

The staff could help with training fire fighters in specialist areas, a meeting of the Shetland community safety and resilience board heard on Wednesday.

Shetland fire chief Matt Mason said interviews with the three candidates will take place next week.

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If they are successful then the number of full-time paid members of the local fire service will rise from seven to ten.

Local senior officer for the Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland Iain Macleod said there are hopes that the new staff would also make more use of the training facility at Sumburgh Airport.

“They will be working out of Lerwick to support the day to day, week to week training delivery for all across Shetland,” he said.

MacLeod also described the investment in Shetland staff as an “antidote” to perceived centralisation of the fire service.

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Board chairman Alastair Cooper said he was “quite delighted to hear there’s three trainers coming to Shetland”.

He also hoped there would be emphasis on specialist training to assist emerging industries in Shetland such as space launches and green energy such as hydrogen.

The meeting also heard that the fire service is looking at ways to improve facilities in the isles.

Some stations in Shetland, for instance, do not have toilets.

Macleod said there is scope to explore working in partnership with other agencies when it came to potentially sharing estate. He used the example of Walls where there is both a small station and a coastguard outpost.

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Following a question from south mainland member Allison Duncan, Macleod said “there’s no intention at this time” to amalgamate any fire stations.

He said he had a “frank exchange” with Scottish Fire and Rescue Service’s asset management for the need for investment in property in the island regions.

Macleod did say, however, that since regional fire brigades joined together as one national body in 2013 there is a larger pot of money to draw from – adding that the old Highlands and Islands service was “grossly underfunded”.

North Isles councillor Duncan Anderson, meanwhile, questioned if there was any leeway with e-learning for anyone who misses out on becoming a retained firefighter because their work schedule means they cannot attend enough training sessions, such as those in fishing.

Macleod said online modules have been important for the fire service during the pandemic while physical training was ruled out.

He agreed to give Anderson’s suggestion “due consideration”.

In a wide ranging discussion on the fire service, Councillor Allison Duncan also asked about the staffing situation at the Fetlar station.

As of March there were only three retained fire fighters at the station, which has a full complement of 12.

Macleod said the population of Fetlar was around 60, and it was a stretch to hope for one in six, for example, to join up.

He suggested that one potential future solution for areas like Fetlar could be, in theory, to invest more in fire prevention in homes.

The meeting also heard that the number of accidental house fires in Shetland remains high, with distraction, cooking and alcohol impairment among some of the main reasons.

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