U-turn over use of smaller units

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FIRE chiefs in South Yorkshire have made a U-turn over plans to replace traditional fire engines with small incident units.

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue wanted to use smaller vans – which need fewer members of staff and would each have saved £100,000 a year – for small and nuisance-type fires.

The original plan was to base one at Elm Lane fire station, Sheffield Lane Top, where a fire engine which used to be available as a roving pump for periods of high demand has been removed.

But the Fire Brigades Union refused to staff the unit, claiming it was ‘unfit for firefighting’.

Two more units are due to be delivered and bosses now want to change the way they are used and only use them at peak times.

The introduction of SIUs forms part of a raft of measures, including 140 job losses and station closures, aimed at saving cash – fire chiefs need to save £10 million because of Government budget cuts.

A report for South Yorkshire Fire Authority members, who have been asked to rubber-stamp the change, says: “The role of small incident units is to ensure the reducing numbers of rescue appliances are available to attend life-threatening incidents, rather than being committed to low-risk nuisance-type calls.

“Members will be aware of the difficulties experienced in reaching agreement with the FBU on the introduction of SIUs.

“As a consequence of the ongoing inability to reach agreement, management would like to consider alternative, more cost-effective SIU provision. Such provision is likely to centre around retained duty or part-time working.

“The role of the SIU in ensuring availability of rescue pumps for life-threatening incidents will not be undermined by the delays in response associated with these alternative crewing methods.”