A political campaign was launched at the FBU conference in May to invest in the safety of firefighters and curb a rising number of fatalities.
In January several hundred attended the funerals of four firefighters who died in the line of duty after responding to a warehouse fire in Warwickshire.
The incident on 2 November 2007 saw the largest loss of life for a fire brigade in Britain for 35 years. Then just months later on 22 January 2008, sub officer John Noble from Alloa Fire Station in central Scotland was killed in a road traffic accident while responding to a fire alarm at a primary school.
The FBU was becoming increasingly concerned that the balance between the three core duties of a firefighter – prevention, protection and intervention – was being lost. Figures of firefighter fatalities, published in the In the Line of Duty report commissioned by the FBU, showed an alarming rise in deaths from one in the five years between 1998 to 2002 to 13 between 2003 and 2007.
Meanwhile, as firefighters were dying or risking their lives, official figures showed that they saved more than 300 people a week between 2001 and 2005.52
So firefighters lobbied parliament on 12 November 2008. The aim of the campaign and lobby was to ensure every possible step be taken to prevent further deaths and improve the health and safety of firefighters. Ahead of the lobby, the FBU published a poll that showed the majority of firefighters in Britain believed their safety was being compromised by inadequate operational training.
The union called for a national Fire and Rescue Service body to be set up with responsibility for ensuring that findings and recommendations from fatal and serious incidents be implemented. The body would be tasked with adequately recording incidents of deaths and serious injury to develop safety guidance.
The union also pushed for more investment in training, with greater emphasis on operational emergency response and updated Fire Service Risk Management Plans. The lobby, attended by over 1,000 FBU members and officials, the biggest in recent years, was a significant success, helping to raise awareness and support for the union’s campaign.