Coll Fire Station – resourced and ready

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Thousands of pounds have been spent updating blaze-busters kit at Coll Fire Station since out-of-control flames destroyed a house on the tiny island and took hold of heathland last year.

Two portable pumps, each costing £10,000, are just some of the latest equipment now kept at the station, community councillors heard last week.

The ‘considerable investment’ from Scottish Fire & Rescue Service also includes a number of fire-fighting knapsacks, beaters and a quantity of 25-litre water barrels that can be moved around the island.

As part of a resilience re-shape after the incident on April 30, the island now has a ‘one-stop’ dedicated supervisory officer – Oban station commander John Sweeney.

Station commander Sweeney and SFRS group commander Des Oakes were at Coll’s February community council meeting to talk through the changes and to thank islanders for their help on that ‘challenging’ day when firefighting efforts, despite best attempts, were hampered by water difficulties.

Station commander Sweeney said over the past 10 months a lot of work had been done to makes sure the station was now ‘properly equipped, resourced and read.’

A number of remedial actions have been taken, he said and added: ‘We are constantly learning. We have put in additional resources and are looking at increasing recruitment. It’s a considerable investment we’ve put in. Coll is now getting more support.’

That work will also  be extended to Tiree and to other islands.

Community council convenor Rob Wainwright, who is also one of Coll’s firefighters, said: ‘The changes that have been made are much to our liking. We also now have a direct ear to someone. The whole set up has changed radically. It was most unsatisfactory before but is now extremely satisfactory.’

Coll Fire Station also has a 5,000 litre dam in the station, the community council heard, and the island appliance has a 1,200 litre water tank on it when it arrives at an incident.

The pumps used to fight last April’s fire had been put through safety checks but the demand on them had been too great.

Mr Wainwright said every house on the island needed to look at what it has available to put out its own fire. A lot of new houses have included their own dams in their design.

Station commander Sweeney gave this reassurance: ‘We do have the capacity now to deliver water further on the island than before.’