New fire team will work with businesses

Graham Rooke, station manager; Neil Hole, watch commander; Kevin Parfitt, fire safety officer and Colin Mills, station manager at Bideford Fire Station. Graham Rooke, station manager; Neil Hole, watch commander; Kevin Parfitt, fire safety officer and Colin Mills, station manager at Bideford Fire Station.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013
9:34 AM

Fire safety officers will carry out three to four-times more inspections of business properties than before.

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FIRE fighters will be able to carry out fire safety inspections in up to four times as many businesses than before in Torridge with the formation of a new team.

By reallocating resources, fire safety officers will focus on working with businesses such as hotels, guest houses and houses of multiple occupation to ensure legislation is complied with.

In September 2012, the owners of Tantons Hotel in Bideford, which was involved in a major fire in May 2011, were fined £40,000 for breaching a number of regulations.

Devon and Somerset Fire & Rescue Service spent 600 hours bringing the prosecution – 600 hours, said Bideford station manager Graham Rooke, that he would rather spend working with businesses.

“We don’t want to have to prosecute people, we want to spend time working with businesses and helping them comply with legislation,” he said.

“We recently carried out a number of free business compliance events in North Devon which saw around 200 hotel and guest house owners attending.

“The feedback we had from people was really positive, which was great.”

Neil Hole, watch manager at Bideford Fire Station, said although the majority of businesses did comply with legislation, he had seen a number of common breaches.

“I’ve seen rubbish bags blocking escape routes, no batteries in fire alarms; in one property all of the fire alarms were covered in plastic bags,” he said.

“The biggest problem is a lack of understanding from landlords, which is what we are aiming to try and change by working with them, not against them.”

Fire safety officers hope to increase the amount of basic checks on businesses to 300-400 properties across the area.

“Our main priority is properties where people sleep,” explained Mr Rooke.

“People think the smoke will wake them up, but in actual fact it contains cyanide which will send them into a deeper sleep.”

And group commander Neil Blackburn said the service would do everything they could to look at different options for businesses.

He said: “We know times are tough, but there is often a solution which doesn’t require spending money; we want to be business friendly.”

Any business owners who would like to speak to a fire safety officer can contact Bideford Fire Station on 01237 423859 or visit www.dsfire.gov.uk for more information.

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