New Fire and Rescue Plans are being adopted across Scotland and a consultation on Glasgow’s is open until the 10th December (see here for all documents and online response form). As a member of the Glasgow Community Planning Partnership the Society was consulted and considered the plan at our last meeting. The response we submitted is pasted below and raises points about the provision of fire stations, access to the back lanes, the implications of the Grenfell fire disaster and fire safety in conservation areas.
The committee is keen to engage in more consultations in future and would welcome any feedback people may have.
Strathbungo Society response to Local Fire and Rescue Plan for the City of Glasgow
The Strathbungo Society is delighted to have been asked to respond to this plan and more particularly that the Fire and Rescue Service is consulting local communities about the role of the Fire and Rescue Service.
We believe there are many positive proposals to the plan and are particularly pleased to see that the Fire and Rescue Service is keen to join up what it does with other services and make the most of the resources it has. Two excellent examples of this are the proposals for how the Fire and Rescue Service could assist with responses to cardiac arrest in the city and how, when making fire safety checks, staff could also help people, particularly older people, identify other hazards in the home. This is sound joined up thinking.
We have four major concerns about the plan.
- The Plan says nothing about the provision of fire stations in Glasgow. We are concerned that the success the fire brigade has had in reducing the impact of fires (eg domestic fire safety) and therefore reduction in demand could lead to demands or proposals to reduce the number of fire stations in the name of efficiency. We accept efficiencies should be considered but from a community perspective, knowing that the fire and rescue service is there – even if never called upon – not just for fires but for major emergencies is one of the foundations for community safety and we do not think that should be reduced in any way. Far better the fire service extends the way it uses its resources (as in proposals above to extend its role) than to cut them.
- The Fire and Rescue service should review how it best services effective access to Strathbungo’s / Glasgow’s narrow streets and lanes. A recent bin fire in the lanes behind Moray Place / Regent Park Square was inaccessible to the fire engine that attended. More than one car was parked and blocking the entry to the lane from Nithsdale Road. Luckily the fire was not too far down the lane, so the fire officers were able to run a hose to the blaze and extinguish it. The incident could have been a far worse. However, it illustrates two problems; one the public safety issue of vehicles blocking entrances to lanes which could be addressed by council traffic and parking control. Traffic wardens are rarely seen in the area so making sure the area is on their radar would be a first step. (a matter for the Police?); Secondly the possibility for the Fire Service to consider the use of smaller fire engines / vehicles to allow it to effectively attend via narrow roads and tenement back lanes, of which there are many right across Glasgow and Scotland’s major cities and towns. This issue is similar to that faced by the City Council’s cleansing services who now provide smaller vehicles to undertake the service rather than much larger vehicles.
- We are surprised that there is absolutely no mention of the Grenfell Fire and the implications this has for fire safety in the city, particularly when we know there has been extensive survey of buildings which it is reasonable to expect the fire service to take a view on. The commitment in the plan to “Working in partnership to ensure the appropriate provision of fire safety standards are incorporated in new premises under construction or premises undergoing material changes” does NOT go far enough. Some buildings need to be improved whether other material changes are happening or not. We would like to see the fire service actively developing and arguing for further fire safety measures in a range of buildings across the city and part of this should be the retrofitting of sprinkler systems into tower blocks and public buildings that so far lack them. In addition, this could also usefully include a new policy of paid-for fire safety checks of Airbnb properties, particularly where these are in effect operating as short-term lets and other non-statutory forms of multiple occupation.
- How the Fire and Rescue service best promotes fire safety in tenement, terraced and Conservation Areas. We believe the Fire and Rescue Service has an important role to play in finding solutions to how modern fire safety measures can be made compatible with conservation objectives and in traditional tenement and terrace properties. For example, the requirement for fire doors in some properties has resulted in the removal of fine old wooden doors. We cannot see why doors cannot be created which meet both fire safety requirements and reflect the character of the original architecture. Similarly, Victorian houses / flats are poorly insulated by modern standards, and there are risks that in addressing this private and third sector operators may be using unsafe materials / methods (as in Grenfell fire) or else the materials and the way they are used destroy the character of the house. Therefore, we would like the fire service to consider its role in relation to wider objectives such as ensuring the fire safety of tenements and terraced houses in conservation areas – such as Strathbungo and Pollokshields – and its role in reducing fuel poverty.
Other comments we would make are:
- We agree with the analysis that much deliberate fire setting is of rubbish and fly tipping. A contributory factor to this has been the failure of Council refuse services to clear bulk items timeously (or at fixed times) with the result that items can lie on the streets or back lanes for prolonged period, in fact weeks. A proportion of these are then set alight. We would request therefore that the fire service adds its voice to local communities in making the case for improved refuse and especially bulk uplift collection.
- We also recognise that risks of fire within houses is likely to increase due to the forecast increase in numbers of people with dementia and the numbers of people with dementia living at home and these risks may further increase due to the escalation in mental health problems within society. This causes great concern for relatives and neighbours and we believe the fire service has a key role in developing effective preventive measures and besides sitting on Community Planning Partnerships needs to be at the table for Health and Social Care Partnerships.
- We understand the Fire and Rescue service shares our concern about misuse of fireworks. They have highlighted the practical difficulties of a ban on retail sales but seek their agreement in principle to support a community-wide initiative to explore a solution based on legislation and a programme of social interaction to address the causes
We welcome the commitment of the Fire and Rescue service to our local area partnerships in Glasgow and believe the issues we have highlighted here provide many good reasons why the Fire and Rescue Service should spend time interfacing with other services and local communities.