Fire boss bemoans hoaxes and wild goose chases

29/03/12. John Devlin.  GV of Fire Engine for stock. Central Scotland Fire and Rescue Services.
29/03/12. John Devlin. GV of Fire Engine for stock. Central Scotland Fire and Rescue Services.

Unwanted fire alarms cause an “unnecessary burden, financially and logistically” on the already tight resources of the fire services.

That was the assertion of Local Senior Officer (LSO) John Dickie last week after reporting that 227 such calls were answered by firefighters in the Borders in just three months from July 1 to September 30.

Some are malicious hoaxes, but the vast majority occur when automatic alarm systems in residential properties are activated.

The meeting of the Police, Fire & Rescue and Safer Communities Board in Newtown heard that the upshot is the same: when firefighters arrive at the scene they discover no fire exists or has existed.

Although spread across the region, the highest volume of these wild goose chases occurred in the council wards of Leaderdale & Melrose and Selkirkshire which each recorded 32. The least onerous area for the firefighters was Jedburgh & District – the source of 16 unwanted signals.

But time may be running out for the worst transgressors, with LSO Dickie revealing a new unwanted alarm policy was about to be applied – and enforced – next month by special fire safety teams across Scotland.

The region-wide total of these bum steers dwarfs the number of actual domestic fires which the service attended over the same three month period.

There were, in fact, just 39 accidental dwelling fires in the Borders – down on the 48 dealt with in the corresponding period last year.

Most of these started in the kitchen of the properties and were either extinguished prior to the brigade’s arrival or with minimal intervention. Four people had been slightly injured as a result of one blaze in Leaderdale & Melrose.

Meanwhile, board members are due to visit Galashiels Fire Station tomorrow (Friday). The tour was organised after serious concerns were expressed at the August meeting at the decision to cut the number of full-time staff based at the station from 44 to 28.

Due to take effect from September 1, the move was delayed pending talks with the workforce over redeployment arrangements.

The board heard last week the introduction of flexible resource-based crews would finally take place this month.

The tour will be led by LSO Dickie who revealed that the specialist Incident Support Unit based at Galashiels would be replaced with a new water rescue vehicle.

“Incident support will be provided from either a demountable pod or the station’s USAR [urban search and rescue] vehicle,” he added

The board heard there was currently a compliment of 109 retained firefighters across the region.