Highlands & Islands

Renewed call on fire control room for Highlands and Islands

Image caption The Scottish government says the knowledge of locally-based crews plays a part in the operation of the fire service

Highland Council's ruling administration has renewed its call for the region to have a dedicated fire control room service.

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) shut its operations control room in Inverness last month.

Emergency calls for the Highlands and Islands are now handled by staff based in Dundee.

Highland Council, which opposed the closure of the Inverness site, said local knowledge has been lost.

The Scottish government said fire service operations drew on the professional experience of control staff supported by sophisticated systems and technology and the knowledge of locally-based crews.

According to Alec Kidd, a former fire service area commander, there have been instances of fire crews being called out to emergencies closer to other stations following the closure of control rooms in Inverness and Aberdeen.

These have included a crew from Lairg in Sutherland being initially called out to attend an incident about 100 miles away on the Isle of Skye.

Also, on Shetland, an emergency team on the island of Bressay was asked to deal with an incident on the isle of Yell - despite five different teams being nearer.

A spokesman for the fire service said they were convinced the correct resources had been sent to the incidents involved but were rectifying some procedural issues.

Matthew Reiss, a Highland councillor for Landward Caithness and a former area police commander, said place names in the Highlands and Islands could cause problems for "well-intentioned" but centrally-based control room staff.

He told BBC Radio Scotland: "It is simply not possible for them to distinguish between, for example, Tain in Caithness and Tain in Easter Ross, unless you have a knowledge of these places.

"You can have all the technology in the world, but nothing substitutes for local knowledge."

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