THE FBU has revealed that firefighters dealt with more incidents, more fires and saw more fire deaths last year than for most of the last decade in England, yet the Westminster government continues to starve fire authorities of the central funding necessary to keep the public safe.
Fire deaths in England increased sharply last year, in part because of the horrific Grenfell Tower fire.
Some 334 people are counted as fire deaths in England (including 71 rather than the actual 72 at Grenfell). This is the worst year for fire deaths since 2010-11. Firefighters attended over 564,000 incidents overall in England, the most since 2011-12. Firefighters attended over 167,000 fires, also the most since 2011-12.
This suggests that the long period of improvements in public safety has plateaued – with cuts the most likely explanation. Since 2010, one-in-five firefighter jobs have been cut. In England, that is around 10,000 frontline firefighter jobs. That means fewer firefighters at the early stages of incidents, slower response times and greater risk to the public.
Dave Green, FBU national officer said: ‘These dreadful new figures confirm firefighters’ worst fears. Austerity cuts are now damaging public safety. ‘For years, politicians have slashed our service and excused their actions because long-term improvements were still being made. ‘Now their figures show the public is at greater risk. The Grenfell Tower fire should have been a wake-up call. The Westminster government should have reacted by investing in the fire and rescue service, but instead they just keep on cutting.
‘They can’t even keep a proper count of the numbers who died as a result of the Grenfell Tower fire.
‘Firefighters have lost complete confidence in this Tory government. It is putting the public at risk, while wrecking a well-respected, professional public service.’
• A number of Aberdeen’s six full-time fire appliances were stood down due to crew shortages in the last week. The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) said a vehicle based at Central Community Fire Station was not operational last Tuesday, and two from Altens last Wednesday, blaming short-term sickness and planned annual leave. Similar staffing problems occurred earlier in the year.
Fire chiefs issued an apology in April following several incidents where appliances were ‘off the run’ in the city. The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has previously raised concerns, saying lives were at risk as a result of the shortages.