New figures have revealed that fire crews across Essex have been significantly and consistently understaffed with nearly a sixth of all shifts last year having fewer than the minimum recommended number of firefighters.
A freedom of information request made and reported by ITV Anglia revealed that in 2014, when county firefighters responded to over 14,000 emergencies, fire crews were understaffed on 16% of occasions, raising concerns over the safety of the public and firefighters.
Keith Handscomb, of the FBU in East Anglia, said: “Sending enough firefighters without delay to 999 emergencies can mean the difference between life and death and the difference between thousands or millions of pounds in damage.
“These latest figures show that frontline cuts are already resulting in too few firefighters being routinely on board fire engines to commence lifesaving rescue operations as soon as they arrive at 999 emergencies.
“Firefighters who arrive at an incident first face the horrendous moral dilemma of delaying lifesaving operations or putting themselves at serious risk by going in without the equipment or back-up they need.
“Routinely sending firefighters to fires and other dangerous emergency situations under-resourced and under-equipped is a gamble. The more you gamble, the more likely you are to pay the price.
“Last year Essex fire crews were sent to over 14,000 emergencies. When you or your family dial 999, it doesn’t matter how many other emergencies there have been – what you need right away is enough firefighters on board fire engines so they can arrive and begin rescuing you without delay.
“Frontline cuts mean fewer firefighters spread more thinly across the county and that is putting the safety of the public and firefighters at risk.”
Essex Fire and Rescue Service – covering Essex, Southend and Thurrock – has already seen a 15% cut over the last decade in the number of full time firefighters serving at frontline fire stations.
This year, the Essex Fire Authority’s budget paper for 2015-16 includes a further, huge cut of 10% in full time firefighters and a chronic 10% shortfall in the current retained firefighting force.
Details of the Essex Fire Authority Budget for 2015-16 can be found in fire authority paper EFA/014/15 at http://www.essex-fire.gov.uk/images/efa/pdf_1423564983.pdf
The staffing figures released under the freedom of information request are:
|Below minimum||minimum||Over minimum||Grand Total|