A SPECIALIST technical rescue service run by the county’s fire brigade is to be disbanded in a bid to save £1 million a year.
The unit, based at Dearne Fire Station, was set up in 2008 and is made up of 28 firefighters who respond to incidents where specialist rescue skills are needed, including floods and when people are trapped in buildings.
Fire chiefs plan to scrap it to cut costs after the Government reduced its funding for the next few years by £10 million.
The specialists will be based at fire stations across the county and other firefighters will be trained up to respond to the incidents the unit used to deal with, including rescues involving bariatric patients, animals and workers involved in industrial accidents.
In a report for Fire Authority members, who agreed the plan, the fire service’s director of service delivery Neil Hessell said: “Due to the significant financial pressures being exerted by the Government’s austerity measures, alternative arrangements to maintain the technical response capability have been investigated.
“From the investigations undertaken it is proposed to remove the technical rescue unit in its present format and redistribute the attributes to a number of other strategic locations within South Yorkshire.
“This proposal will increase the overall resilience and availability of response capabilities should we get more than one type of incident that requires a specialist response capability at the same time.
“Although the introduction and use of the TRU has been successful, in its present format it is an expensive commodity to resource.”
Closing the unit will save cash because the 28 firefighters involved will replace 30 firefighters due to retire over the next 12 months – meaning the fire service’s wage bill will reduce and bosses will no longer have to pay the technical rescue workers an ‘additional responsibility’ allowance they used to get for extra training they had to undertake.
John Gilliver, secretary of the Fire Brigades Union in South Yorkshire, said firefighters are not challenging the decision.
He said: “The fire service does not receive any additional training from the Government for the technical rescue unit and because of the austerity measures we are facing it was deemed to be an overprovision.
“It was useful to have but is accepted that it is not a necessity.
“The county is not losing the specialist skills. Firefighters are well trained and will be able to respond to all the incidents we have always done in the past. There has been a lot of discussion about this.”