Tragedy, loss, hope, help, rescue and survival: New figures show for the first time the key role of fire service rescues

Emergencies of all kinds can bring tragedy and loss. But there is also hope, help, rescue and survival says the Fire Brigades Union as it launches new research.

For the first time new figures show o ver 100 (150) people a month are being rescued from fires and vehicle crashes by fire crews across the North West.

More than 7,000 (7,082) people were rescued from fires in the region in the period 1997-2006, the ten most recent years for which data is available. More than 600 (642) were rescued in 2006 alone.

And over 10,000 (10,858) people involved in road traffic collisions were rescued by fire services in the North West in the 10 years to 2005/6, the most recent year for which data is available. In 2005/6 alone crews rescued more than 1,000 (1,034).

The total number of people rescued by the fire service will be much larger, because some figures such as those rescued from flooding and water, are excluded.

UK-wide, more than 80,000 (83,668) people were rescued from fires and vehicle crashes between 2001 and 2005, and over 190,000 (190,629) since records began in 1990. The overall number of recorded rescues in the UK is at record or near record levels.

These figures, the most recent and reliable available, are based on answers to parliamentary questions, Freedom of Information Act questions and some historical data contained in the official UK fire statistics. While many rescues are recorded, central Government does not make the figures public.

And these official figures are an underestimate. They exclude members of the public evacuated with the assistance of the fire service for their own safety or assisted in other ways. They do not include thousands of other rescues performed by the UK’s fire services at other emergencies including the 2007 floods, other water rescues and those rescued from the London Underground on 7/7, nor figures on rescues from a range of other 999 incidents.

The figures on rescues from road traffic collisions represent an absolute minimum, as they assume for England and Wales that one person only is rescued in every road traffic collision involving persons rescued (the official measure) even though these Government figures include incidents involving multiple vehicles with one or more passengers.

Detailed breakdown:

Fires: Between 1997 and 2006, fire crews rescued over 2,800 (2,889) people in Greater Manchester, over 1,600 (1,619) in Lancashire, over 1,500 (1,556) in Merseyside, more than 700 (719) in Cheshire and just under 300 (299) in Cumbria.

Road traffic collisions: Between 1996/7 and 2005/6 fire crews rescued over 3,500 (3,574) in Greater Manchester, just under 3,000 (2,960) in Lancashire, over 1,800 (1,887) in Cheshire, more than 1,300 (1,359) in Merseyside and in excess of 1,000 (1,078) in Cumbria.

Regional Secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, Kevin Brown said:

"Everyone in the fire service knows there is terrible human tragedy behind all these incidents. Lives are lost as well as saved and families, friends and communities are left devastated.

"These figures are not a celebration of the work of the fire service. But they do underline that there is hope, help, rescue and survival as well as tragedy and loss."

“The fire service today is an all-round emergency response and rescue service. The figures illustrate why the public has such high confidence in the fire service.

“They also underscore the importance of the frontline rescue capability in saving lives.

Across the North West fire crews are rescuing over a hundred people a month from a range of potentially lethal 999 emergencies.

“It is now very clear that the ‘fire’ service is a critical all-round local emergency rescue service. Our emergency rescue role covers fires, but now extends much further into rope rescues, water rescues, building collapse, terrorist attacks, and a range of other emergency incidents.

“Politicians searching for a model of a world-class public service need only look at the UK’s fire and rescue service and what we deliver. The answer to that search is under their noses and has a ‘Made in the UK’ label on it.”

This FBU research, the first on UK fire service rescues ever published, contains a breakdown by English region, as well as Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, and by each of England’s 45 fire and rescue services.

Download copy of the report

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