CALLING for cut fire appliances and jobs to be restored, South West Region Fire Brigades Union has warned fire and rescue services won’t be able to cope if floods are more widespread.
In a statement on Friday, South West FBU said that following hectic nights rescuing flood victims, ‘the FBU has put politicians on notice that they expect the threat of front line cuts to be removed.’
It added: ‘As the very serious weather situation developed, plans were initiated by the fire service which have seen crews and equipment from other areas of the UK arrive in the region in order to assist with the situation.
‘This co-ordination has doubled the specialist capacity in the South West but is only possible because no other region is affected to the same extent.
‘Even with this extra assistance the service has been pushed to the limit with emergency fire control staff working around the clock to deal with high levels of emergency calls and co-ordinating responses to them.’
South West FBU Executive Council Member Tam McFarlane said: ‘The professionalism and commitment being shown by members of the service, around the clock and in the most difficult of circumstances, is there for all to see.
‘This is the teamwork of the fire and rescue service at its best but it should be obvious to everyone that we are working on the limit.’
The dire warning was borne out over the weekend when two people died after floods and high winds battered parts of Britain.
A woman was killed by a falling tree in Exeter on Saturday night, while a 70-year-old man died after his car crashed into a swollen river in Cambridgeshire.
Hundreds of homes have been flooded in Devon and Cornwall and elsewhere. One severe flood warning is in place in Helston, Cornwall.
The South West FBU statement added: ‘The government has recently been told by the Chief Fire Officers Association that proposed budget cuts will lead to over 4,000 firefighter posts being cut, 60 fire stations closed, 150 fire appliances cut and 40 fire stations downgraded across England.
‘The current and ongoing situation in the South West should be a stark wake-up call to the consequences of proposed cuts to the front line fire and rescue service and politicians need to pay heed.
‘Large scale floods are becoming a regular feature of the work that we do and every region should have the necessary equipment and front line firefighting staff needed to deal with it.
‘This means investment not cuts and we will be writing to all MPs in the region demanding a recognition of the work that we do and support for our service.
‘That includes a statutory duty on the fire and rescue service to respond to major flooding, which we have in Scotland and Northern Ireland – but sadly not yet in England and Wales.’