Scotland

Concerns over number of on-call firemen in parts of Scotland

Fire crew
Image caption The report looked into the operation of Scotland's single fire service

Concerns over the provision of on-call firefighters in parts of Scotland have been raised in a report into the single fire service.

Staff in some areas expressed concerns about the difficulties in providing round-the-clock cover.

The report by HM Fire Service Inspectorate pointed to rural areas where on-call firefighters are particularly important.

HM chief inspector Steven Torrie said: "There are areas with concerns."

Retained duty and volunteer firefighters have other jobs but are on-call to respond to a fire station at certain times.

Of Scotland's 359 stations, 85% rely wholly or in part on their services.

The inspection, which took place between December 2013 and March 2014, focused on Fife, South Lanarkshire and the Inner Hebrides.

Chief Inspector Torrie added: "One of the major strategic challenges is the sustainability of the retained duty system and volunteer units.

"Although there are examples of strong, viable units, there are also others which have genuine concerns over the long-term viability of their local stations."

Local emergencies

Assistant Chief Officer Peter Murray, who will lead a fire service review into the on-call system, said "The system was developed around 70 years ago.

"We know modern life presents significant challenges for retained firefighters, who often struggle to meet the demands of their full-time jobs while being constantly available to respond to local emergencies."

The report also draws attention to differences in the general condition and age of firefighting kit at stations around the country.

Chief Inspector Torrie said: "This remains a time of transition for the service.

"Our inspection identified less variation than we had expected and did not reveal a consistent pattern of weakness in one area.

"We also found evidence of good practice in all of the areas we visited."

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service welcomed the findings on the consistency of service - given the relatively recent launch of the SFRS, which saw eight fire and rescue services merge in April last year.

A spokesman said: "It is very pleasing to have confirmation that the hard work already undertaken to improve access to our services and specialist resources is making a real difference.

"There was a wealth of experience held within Scotland's previous fire and rescue services, and this is now being harnessed to make certain that all of Scotland's communities can benefit from it."

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