Here's what happened in October 2017:

SAFETY campaigners warned that the worst ever shortage of firefighters was putting lives at risk in Hampshire, writes Laura Sore. A Daily Echo investigation revealed the true extent of the crisis among retained fire crews, with dozens of vacancies. Some village stations were said to be near-permanently out of action because there are not enough people available to crew the engines. It meant appliances have to come further and take longer to get to incidents, putting lives at risk.

A SOUTHAMPTON flat which was infiltrated by weapon-wielding gangs and turned into a drugs den was sealed off following a court order. A judge granted police permission to shut down the flat in Chapel Road, St Mary’s, after improvised weapons and drug paraphernalia were found among the mounds of rubbish inside the apartment. Officers found shotgun shells, homemade knives and an array of improvised spear-like weapons, designed to poked through the letterbox to repel unwanted visitors. Neighbours said the dealers and their trade had made life in the block “hell” and that many feared for their safety.

ONE of the best-known and most innovative yacht builders in Hampshire went into liquidation with the loss of more than 40 jobs. Hythe-based Green Marine was a huge name in yacht racing – it made the hulls for Sir Ben Ainslie’s Land Rover BAR America’s Cup boats and was involved in the construction of the first three yachts across the finish line in this year’s Vendee Globe round-the-world race. However, the failure to secure a vital multimillion-pound contract for a 55m yacht drove the company under, explained the liquidator. Southampton insolvency firm Peter Hall was instructed to place the company into Creditors’ Voluntary Liquidation.

A DEVASTATED Southampton man spoke of the “terrifying” ordeal that saw his £415,000 home in Santa Rosa destroyed in California’s wild fires. Keith Durnford and his young family were forced to flee as flames engulfed their street. Mr Durnford said: “We have nothing – absolutely nothing. Everything we worked our lives for is gone. We tried not to talk about the situation in front of our son, but he saw it on television and said ‘have we lost our home?’ What do you say to a four-year old when he asks you something like that?”

A WELL-KNOWN business names from Southampton’s past was making a return to the city centre, it was revealed. For more than a century Tyrrell and Green – usually referred to as just Tyrrells – was the city’s most famous department store. Next year the name is due to return to Above Bar as the name of a new restaurant in the city’s cultural quarter, overlooking Guildhall Square on the site once occupied by the much-loved shop. The new venue is a partnership between Nuffield Southampton Theatres (NST) and fast-growing local coffee shop chain Mettricks. Tyrrells will sit alongside the new performing arts venue, NST City – a 450-seat main theatre and 133-seat studio which will also have screening facilities, a workshop and rehearsal spaces.

RESIDENTS of a Southampton tower block demanded action in a police investigation, six months after a flat at Redbridge Towers was engulfed in flames. Despite an official fire investigation finding the cause of the blaze as “undetermined”, officers launched their own probe following the fire that happened two months before the Grenfell Tower disaster that killed around 80 people. When quizzed on the length of their investigation, Hampshire Constabulary said there were several stages and that gathering all the evidence could take a long time. In the days after the fire, as reported by the Daily Echo, tenants were demanding sprinkler systems be installed for their own safety. The council said that they had begin installing sprinklers in unoccupied flats but that the full installation for the building is expected to be May 2018.

A £20 MILLION repair scheme to save two of Hampshire’s busiest road bridges from crumbling was set to get under way. Transport bosses say without “essential” work to the Redbridge Causeway, heavy lorries may be banned from using it within a year. But the scheme, dubbed the “biggest road maintenance project in Hampshire’s history”, would mean major disruption for the tens of thousands of drivers who use it each day. Hampshire County Council said it would have to close the A35 westbound for as many as seven weekends while it carried out the work.

WEEKS after accepting a £64,000 a year job as deputy police and crime commisioner, Flick Drummond left her post because she couldn’t build a professional relationship with her boss. Michael Lane, police and crime commissioner for Hampshire and Isle of Wight, announced that Ms Drummond would no longer work as his deputy, leaving the role by mutual consent. Ms Drummond only took on the position two months earlier. In a statement, she said: “Sometimes it is not possible to build a professional relationship between two people, through no fault of either party.” The former Conservative MP for Portsmouth South lost her parliamentary seat in June’s snap general election.