Row over new engine reduces fire cover in Sheffield

Pictured is Elm Lane Fire Station,Sheffield Lane Top
Pictured is Elm Lane Fire Station,Sheffield Lane Top
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THOUSANDS of homes across Sheffield are receiving only half their usual cover from firefighters - because of a row between crews and their bosses over a controversial new fire engine.

Elm Lane station covers some of north Sheffield’s biggest housing estates, including Parson Cross, Shiregreen and Wincobank.

But one of its two fire engines has been taken out of service amid cost-cutting measures to save £10 million a year.

Management want to replace the full-size engine with a ‘small incident unit’ to tackle small grass fires and wheelie bin arsons - incidents which make up much of the station’s workload.

But firefighters at the station, backed by the Fire Brigades Union, are refusing to use the ‘inadequate’ new 4x4 vehicle - which they have dubbed a ‘dinky toy’.

Firefighters believe they could be put in danger trying to fight blazes using the vehicle, which they claim will not deliver any savings anyway.

John Gilliver, South Yorkshire branch secretary for the Fire Brigades Union, said: “We have requested our members do not use the small incident vehicle because we do not feel it is fit for purpose.

“I think it is a disgrace the brigade has taken the second fire engine away from Elm Lane before an agreement has been reached on this. The station covers some of the most deprived areas of South Yorkshire and there is a case to make for it to keep its second unit.”

Mr Gilliver added it was ‘dangerous’ to use the small incident unit.

He said: “If the fire develops into a large incident, the vehicle would be inadequate and our crews would have to call a fire engine out, which takes time and could put lives in danger. It could also give our members a moral dilemma in deciding what to do while waiting for the proper vehicle to arrive.

“The three staff who would be stationed at Elm Lane to man the unit are currently being deployed elsewhere until the matter is resolved.”

But South Yorkshire’s chief fire officer James Courtney said the small incident unit has ‘already been successfully responding to incidents since 2009’ and has attended 669 fires.

It has until now been used by ‘retained’ crews - part time firefighters at small stations.

Mr Courtney said: “It was our intention to introduce the small incidents unit at Elm Lane fire station at the same time as removing the roving pumps at Elm Lane and Mansfield Road, to provide an additional resource to keep our frontline appliances available for life-risk incidents.

“However, the FBU will not allow its members to carry out the training needed for the small incident unit, therefore it is not currently possible to provide this additional resource.”