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Emergency services / Councillor wants ‘urgent action’ on upgrading some local fire stations

Community safety and resilience board chairman Allison Duncan said some firefighters are working in ‘atrocious conditions’ and has threatened to raise the issue with the Health and Safety Executive

The fire station in Bressay.

THE CHAIRMAN of Shetland’s community safety and resilience board says the facilities and condition of three local fire stations are “atrocious” – and placed the blame on senior management down south.

Speaking at a meeting of the board on Wednesday, councillor Allison Duncan criticised the facilities at the Walls, Bressay and Hillswick stations.

He said he was not impressed by a lack of shower and toilet facilities, although some Portaloos have been provided.

Duncan – who is keen to visit all stations in Shetland – also raised issues such as “inadequate” heating, insulation and storage, as well as “bird infestation” and some asbestos cladding.

Allison ‘Flea’ Duncan. Photo: Hans J Marter/Shetland News

He also raised concern about the risk of contamination.

The Shetland South councillor said MSP Beatrice Wishart and MP Alistair Carmichael are aware of the situation and had recently undertaken an unannounced visit to the Walls station.

“They were not impressed,” he said.

Duncan also raised concern at the lack of upgrades at the stations given he understood an audit of estate was carried out in the past.

“I find this situation very disturbing,” he said, “having our community fire fighters who work under such atrocious conditions”.

Duncan said if there was no “positive outcome” on the matter before the board’s next meeting in late August then he may refer the issue to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

“I expect very urgent action,” the councillor said.

Duncan stressed that Shetland management and staff were “totally exonerated” from his comments and instead focused his blame on senior Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) chiefs, who “should be ashamed of themselves”.

He said local management have undertaken “extensive efforts” to try to resolve the issues.

With no women fire fighters at any of the three stations, Duncan also said in his view the current facilities would be a “detriment to female recruitment”.

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It comes as the SFRS undertakes consultation on the future of the service, with estate a key part of the thinking.

The Hillswick fire station.

A Shaping Our Future Service consultation document admitted that many of SFRS’ buildings are no longer fit for purpose and require urgent action.

But it said its capital funding from the Scottish Government has remained the same at £32.5 million for the last seven years.

“We have received an additional £10 million for 24/25 but as a minimum we need at least £60 million each year to bring our buildings and equipment up to standard,” the document added.

“We are also spending more money on repairs as the condition and suitability of our estate continues to deteriorate.”

Commenting after the meeting, Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart said that seeing the reality of the “conditions some of our firefighters have to deal with in terms of their station and lack of basic facilities was quite an eye-opener”.

“Firefighters need to be ready for anything that is thrown at them, but some of our fire stations are lacking in basic facilities forcing some to go home to get changed between jobs,” she said.

“Some of Shetland’s fire stations need immediate upgrades to provide basic facilities.

“To carry on the way things are is a danger to firefighters and their families.”

In response, the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service’s deputy assistant chief officer Stephen Wood said: “We continually review our facilities and resources to ensure we can deliver the highest standard of emergency service.

“This includes a recent investment of up to £1 million in new, modern fire appliances and equipment throughout Shetland.

“We have been clear that some of our ageing buildings in Shetland and across Scotland are no longer fit for purpose and require action.

“We also must ensure that we have the correct resources in locations which meet the needs of communities.

“We are currently running an online survey to gather the views of the public which will help to develop options for public consultation later this year.”

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