Vikings Force Closure of Shetland Fire Station

A Shetland fire station has been forced to close its doors as the result of a viking fire festival. Two fire fighters from the station on the Island of Bressay have refused to shave their beards ahead of today’s Up Helly Aa festival, which celebrates Shetland’s Viking heritage and culminates with the dramatic burning of a replica Viking galley.

The island with 360 residents has been without fire cover since November because the men’s beards prevent them from wearing breathing apparatus in an emergency. In the event of a fire, a crew from Lerwick would be ferried across the harbour, while officers from the island have been handing out fire prevention advice as a precautionary measure to the island’s 360 residents.

Local senior officer for the Shetland, Orkney and Western Isles, Billy Wilson, said: “Our retained staff do an excellent job and we recognise that the history and culture of a community will influence when members of a station may require time away from the service.”

“It is crucial as a service that we balance that with the wider issue of public safety and for that reason we have developed contingency plans.”

Up Helly Aa is an annual event held on a variety of differnt Shetland Islands to mark the end of the Yule season. It features a band of latter-day Viking warriors known as the Jarl Squad, and draws visitors from around the world. The Vikings traditionally spend much of the day making public appearances followed by celebrations which proceed well into the night. The day after is always a holiday on Shetland, allowing time for the vikings to recover.

Here’s the best of this years reactions on Twitter so far, and a live stream is also available from 2pm local time here






About Nadine Lee

Originally from New Zealand, Nadine is a documentary researcher now based in the north east of Scotland.

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