N E W S F E E D S >>>
Fire Action Group Index      

Latheron, Lybster & Clyth Community Council
Fire Action Group

Evidence Shows Lybster Fire Unit Needed To Fight House Fires
The Fire Action Group Are worried about the implications of being dependent on Dunbeath and Wick units and want to be allowed to attend fires in the area as previously.

Our organisation has been able to find out that in the last year the unit which is expected to respond quickest to a fire in Lybster, namely, Dunbeath is regularly experiencing problems in finding a crew.

It must be stressed that this information is in no way casting any aspersions on Dunbeath Fire Unit and its members. The Lybster Unit fully supports the work of their colleagues in Dunbeath. These are purely hard facts.

In the last year Dunbeath was summoned on 30 call outs, over half, which were to attend incidents in the Lybster patch. Many, but not all of these, were for RTAs, which of course Lybster in the “wisdom” of the Fire Brigade are not allowed to attend. Only 6 call outs in the year were for their own patch. 8 call outs were false alarms.

The Fire Brigade insists, on the recommendations of Health and Safety, on a minimum of 4 personnel attending any incident. Of these 30 callouts 8 were under crewed i.e. less than 4 and 5 call outs had a minimum of 4 personnel. Therefore just under 50% of calls were attended at the very minimum level or less than minimum!

Numbers of less than 4 can’t be used to deploy Breathing Apparatus according to Health and Safety. Yet the unit was still allowed to attend!

Lybster is not now allowed to turn out because they have no Breathing Apparatus but then again, technically, neither do Dunbeath because they are under crewed. It appears that different standards are being applied to these situations.

The issue at stake concerning Lybster is the lack of Breathing Apparatus training. Is it really necessary to have this at this local level in a rural area? In 6 years Dunbeath have used BA only 4 times!

First and foremost, surely, is the need to secure the scene of the fire and prevent the public from taking matters into their own hands; to put hoses on a fire and to protect householders.

Some of the following facts, which are readily verifiable from station records, might give you an insight into the problem:

  • Time 19.01 Date 12/1/05 Croft at Smerral on fire. Lybster attended but not credited with turning out according to records.
  • 2100 on 12/1/05 Lybster extinguished, on their own, a shed fire in Latheronwheel. A 74 year old man was trying to put it out himself. Back again to the issue of danger to the public!
  • On both 12/1/05 and 11/1/05 there were a total of 4 false alarms in Dunbeath, which resulted in 2 or 3 pump appliances being deployed elsewhere in the county, as Thurso has to cover Wick and Wick goes to Dunbeath.
  • 15.04 on 10/1/05 Dunbeath turned out to a car fire on the Causewaymire A9 trunk road with a crew of only 3. Again this is in the Lybster patch but they are not permitted to go!
  • 10.14 on 22/11/04 Dunbeath attended a RTA in the Helmsdale patch with a crew of only 2! One of these firemen came from Lybster, because in order to try to keep up numbers in the Dunbeath crew one is a member of both units!
  • 14.30 on 29/10/04 RTA at Camster. Only 2 turn out from Dunbeath.
  • 21.28 on 29/4/04 Lybster turn out with full crew to a chimney fire at Occumster. Dunbeath appear with 3!
  • 14.09 on 1/12/03 Dunbeath called to RTA but don’t appear, as they can’t get a crew. Lybster turn out with 5. Less than two weeks later Lybster are no longer permitted to attend RTAs! Yet their presence meant they were able to put out a “Stop” thus preventing two mobile pumps from Wick a mobile stand by from Thurso to Wick and an emergency tender from Inverness turning out needlessly under “blue light” emergency conditions.

I would also draw your attention to the incident of a house fire in Lybster in March 2003 when the local unit arrived promptly to find the bottom floor well alight and flames coming out of the ground floor windows. They immediately got a jet working from a hydrant and knocked the fire out, thus preventing it spreading to the upper storeys. They didn’t know if there was anyone inside or not but awaited the arrival of Wick and Dunbeath with their BA equipment. These crews arrived simultaneously 18 minutes after the Lybster crew had attended. I suppose it was just as well that no one was indeed in the property or I would be drawing attention to a fatality.

The actions of the Lybster Unit so impressed the Station Officer of Wick that he wrote to the Firemaster expressing his appreciation and admiration of their involvement in this incident.

This last piece of information is verifiable in the Agenda for the Meeting of the Highlands and Islands Fire Board on Friday 4 April 2003 at 2.00pm - Page 87.

The Community Council Fire Action Group would welcome a copy of the recommendations made to the Brigade by the Health and Safety Executive. This, surely, is now readily available under recent Freedom of Information legislation. All eagerly await a prompt, if not immediate, response to this request.

M Bowman
Latheron Lybster and Clyth Fire Action Group