South Yorkshire firefighters failing to hit current aim

barnCL''barn fire at Sycamore Farm, Whitley Road Grenoside
barnCL''barn fire at Sycamore Farm, Whitley Road Grenoside
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TARGET response times for fire crews to attend life-threatening incidents could be axed under new proposals revealed today.

The current target – where South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue aims to attend 80 per cent of house fires or road crashes in six minutes or less – could also be extended to around 10 minutes after the brigade failed to hit the mark.

And a third risk-based option – where communities traditionally prone to more fires have one target and those with fewer blazes a different one – is also being put out to public consultation from Monday.

An operational plan report to fire authority chiefs said: “We will always strive to respond to life-threatening incidents as quickly and as safely as possible.

“However, given we have never achieved our current six-minute target, and considering that the extent of government funding cuts means our frontline service is changing, we must be realistic about what we can achieve in future.

“Response times are an issue of vital importance to anyone who might need to call us for an emergency, so we want to discuss honestly with the public what our future response times approach might be.”

The brigade has to save £9.5m over four years .

Numbers of fires involving properties, deaths and injuries plus 999 calls received have all fallen, the brigade says.

But John Gilliver, South Yorkshire Fire Brigades Union secretary, said: “If the number of calls are going down why aren’t fire crews able to get there in six minutes? It is achievable.

“If you take longer to get to an incident the chances are that puts the public’s lives at risk.

Fire chiefs say every emergency fire will be attended as soon as possible, regardless of current or future targets.

Fears that a risk-based model could cause a postcode lottery were also raised by residents.

Tenants’ representative Jean Castleton, 78, of Manor Oaks Road, Wybourn, said: “If you have different times for communities people will be arguing with one another.It should just be the same for everybody.”

Norton Lees mum Lisa Stacey said: “If you think about where the fire stations are, the nearest one to us is Lowedges and it would take six minutes to get here on a good day. I don’t think it’s fair to have different targets.”

* To give feedback on the plans email customercare@syfire.gov.uk or visit South Yorkshire Fire

The options:

* No response time target: the report said this would allow a focus on more important targets, such as fire deaths and injuries, and scrap a measure that ‘may be unattainable due to funding cuts’.

But there could be a ‘public perception that standards could reduce’ and people would have no measure to hold the brigade accountable.

* Single county-wide target: this could change the target to around 9-11 minutes, with possibly separate targets for house fires and road crashes. The report said it would set the same standard for all residents but may create a ‘negative perception of moving to a slower target.’

* Risk-based response target: different response time targets would be created for different areas of South Yorkshire, depending on their likelihood of having a house fire.

A risk map would be developed to match resources to risk and create the ‘most realistic measure’. A six-minute target could be retained for some high-risk areas.