NE Scotland, Orkney & Shetland

Up Helly Aa beards close Shetland island of Bressay fire station

Up Helly Aa beard Image copyright PA
Image caption Up Helly Aa is a spectacular annual event for Shetland

The Shetland island of Bressay has been left without local firefighter cover - due to beards being grown for the Up Helly Aa fire festival.

Two members of the retained crew have grown facial hair for the forthcoming island event.

It means they are not able to wear breathing apparatus and the station has been stood down.

Shetland's Community Safety Partnership is trying to broker a deal to get one to shave off his beard.

This would see the station operational again.

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service said it would exercise contingency plans to provide cover for the Bressay area during the festival.

'Recognise the history'

Local senior officer for the Shetland, Orkney and Western Isles, Billy Wilson, said: "The emergency response to Bressay during the period will be provided by retained firefighters from Lerwick fire station, using well-rehearsed procedures developed jointly with our community planning partners."

He added: "Our retained staff do an excellent job and we recognise that the history and culture of a community will influence when members of a station may require time away from the service.

"It is crucial as a service that we balance that with the wider issue of public safety and for that reason we have developed contingency plans."

The main Up Helly Aa in Lerwick is a spectacular event that celebrates Shetland's Viking heritage and culminates with the dramatic burning of a replica Viking galley.

It features a band of latter-day Viking warriors known as the Jarl Squad.

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