Scottish Fire and Rescue questioned over delays in attending a fire which took them nearly 30 minutes to attend

Concerns and worry over how effective the fire service is in Peterhead have been raised following a recent blaze which destroyed a campervan and spread to a home.

By John A. MacInnes
Thursday, 28th April 2022, 10:16 am
Updated Thursday, 28th April 2022, 10:16 am
Why was the retained crew unable to attend the call? SFRS have given no explanation.
Why was the retained crew unable to attend the call? SFRS have given no explanation.

The incident which occurred at Henderson Circle in the town, saw 999 calls being made to Scottish Fire and Rescue to alert them to a possible explosion within a vehicle which had then caught fire, but was parked in the driveway of the property dangerously close to the residential dwelling.

Firefighters were alerted to the fire at 12.53pm when it was logged by their control room but by that time the campervan was well ablaze.

Peterhead fire station’s retained crew had been tasked to attend via their pager system as the full-time team were in attendance at an Easter fun day at Aden Country Park.

When SFRS became aware that the retained crew could not attend, the pump unit at the family day out was sent instead, arriving at the scene nearly 30 minutes later at 1.21pm!

By that time the property at the address was well alight with flames shooting through the roof.

We asked SFRS why the retained crew were unable to attend the fire, causing a delay while control had to then task a second crew.

SFRS failed to provide that information.

We also asked the fire service what the average call out time for the Peterhead retained crew is, from pagers being alerted to a pump being crewed and on the road.

Once more, SFRS failed to provide that information.

According to the latest set of stats available for response times in the north of Scotland issued by SFRS, this was eight minutes and 54 seconds. The incident at Henderson Circle saw pumps take nearly three times that length of time to arrive.

Area Commander Chay Ewing said: "Our on call firefighters work tirelessly to protect communities across Scotland and often balance responding to emergencies via a pager with primary employment and family life. As such, on call firefighter availability can be dynamic.

"However, we are taking active steps to address these challenges and have established a National On Call Leadership Forum to identify and drive improvements in on call firefighter recruitment and retention."

LSO Ewing continued: "Where a particular resource is unavailable, our highly skilled control staff will always work to mobilise the closest and most appropriate fire appliance in response to any emergency.

"Our number one priority will always be to work towards a safer Scotland and one of the best ways to achieve this is through prevention.

"Community engagement events are a significant part of our prevention efforts as they present our local crews with an opportunity to engage directly with the communities they serve and share key safety advice on a range of subjects."

Conservative MP for Banff and Buchan, David Duguid, said: “In a fire of this size, a matter of seconds could be the difference between life and death or a property burning down, so this response time is incredibly alarming.

“But this shows the devastating impact Scottish Government cuts have had on the service, resulting in fewer firefighters and scarcer resources for Peterhead.”