There was shock and anger in Strachur this week after it emerged that local fire cover has stopped for at least three months.
Scottish Fire and Rescue Service say the move is due to a lack of firefighters being recruited – but local sources say people have been waiting for months to join the retained local fire crew, but training was delayed by the pandemic.
Strachur is one of five local fire stations in Cowal where firefighters are ‘on call’ and required to live within eight minutes of their station.
This is to ensure fast call-out times in case of emergencies.
Fire chiefs insist, however, that cover for the village will be maintained, despite the nearest open fire station being 18 miles away.
Joe McKay is the senior officer for East and West Dunbartonshire, Argyll and Bute. He said: “The fire station at Strachur has not closed.
“Due to unforeseen circumstances, the crewing level has temporarily fallen below four, which is the minimum number of firefighters needed to safely and effectively respond to any emergency.
“However, we are delighted to have four candidates progressing through our recruitment process and are hopeful they will have completed their training in September.”
There are fears in the village that the fire appliance will be taken away while the station is not in use.
LSO McKay said: “The existing crew at Strachur will continue to undergo training at the station whilst the appliance will be maintained to ensure it is operational again as soon as crew number is increased.
“The community of Strachur can rest assured that their safety is my highest priority and that fire cover is being maintained through our established business continuity plans. We will continue to attend at every emergency.”
He added: “Retained firefighters provide a service for the community, by the community and their commitment is commended. We continue to appeal to people from all backgrounds and walks of life to consider a rewarding career with us.”
Strachur firefighters attended three fires, five false fire alarms and assisted partners three times in 2019 – a total of 11 incidents. They attended five fires, nine false fire alarms and assisted partners four times in 2020 – a total of 18 incidents.
A spokesperson for Strachur Community Council said: “We are of course very disappointed at the temporary closure of the Fire Station and alarmed at the possible consequences over the next few months.
“Last year we were in correspondence with senior management in the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service regarding recruitment issues in Strachur and, while we were assured there were candidates ready to go through the Fire Service’s process, we were warned that the pandemic might result in a postponement of the process until it was safe to continue.
“Our volunteer fire-fighters play a vital role in protecting the community and we can’t afford to lose the fire station.”