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Statistics show low staffing at 10 out of 12 Orkney fire stations

Andrew Stewart, Local Democracy Reporter
Andrew Stewart, Local Democracy Reporter

Concerning figures have shown that only two out of twelve fire stations in Orkney are fully staffed.

The numbers came before Orkney Islands Council’s police and fire sub-committee.

In a report covering April 1, 2020 to June 30 this year, it was shown that only the stations in Stromness and Stronsay have met their full complement of staff.

All the other stations are short, with the station on the small island of Papa Westray being seven staff shy of its full target of 12.

Likewise, Hoy, Rousay, and North Ronaldsay are all shown to be short of their full roster of 12 by six each.

The mini-fitness test

Despite this, the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service’s group commander for the Orkney district, Raymond Fallon, said he had good news and progress is being made.

He explained that there had been issues in recruiting as the process was taking up to 10 months.

He said Scotland’s islands groups have been inviting anyone who expressed interest to come along to drill nights where they were given a “mini-fitness test” to assess how much progress they might need to make.

Explaining how this new process had improved the recruitment of new staff, he said: “Looking back at the previous recruitment campaigns we had, we previously had 17 on the list but only got two through the process.

“With the last two campaigns, we had eight on the list and we got eight through the process and then on the last one, we had eight in the process again and we got seven through. 

“It’s working really well but it’s going to take a bit of time for us to get it where we want to be. You’ll actually see that Stromness is now plus one [staff member above its complement].

“Hopefully, by the next scrutiny meeting we get here, Stronsay will be plus one and we’re looking at Kirkwall being plus one as well.

“I am trying to horizon-scan here because we do have personnel that are getting to the latter stages.” 

Is a full roster unrealistic for some of the stations?

The chairman of the sub-committee, Andrew Drever, said that the full complement of 12 was probably unrealistic for some stations.

He said: “It’s just a reminder, as ever, to communities that both the police and fire services can supply the training and equipment but that the public and communities need to come forward to supply the individuals to assist as firefighter rescue and also as special constables.

“I notice we’re still working with the full staff complement of 12, which is probably unrealistic in many instances and, in my 18-and-a-half years of being involved in this.

“I’ve rarely seen the full complement of firefighters at any of the stations, with Kirkwall and Stromness being the exception with the 20 that’s required there. 

“I think it’s very difficult to attract that many in some of our smaller remote islands but it seems to work very well at around six or eight, which is probably realistically all we can expect.”

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