Two firefighters

Longest 999 fire response times for 20 years, government admits

As the Government announces the longest 999 response times to fires in England in two decades, the FBU claims the ever lengthening time it takes for fire crews to arrive are a direct result of ‘life-threatening cuts’.

The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) published their Fire Incidents Response Times document today, which collates figures from April 2014 to March 2015, and shows a marked increase in the amount of time it takes for firefighters to get to emergencies. It states that: “The average response times across all location types in 2014-15 increased compared to last year and five years ago, and were the longest response times recorded in the past 20 years.”

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU), which represents over 85% of all firefighters in the UK, have said government cuts to fire and rescue services have put the public in danger. Response times don’t only cover fires but terrorist incidents too and there are mounting concerns over slower response times to incidents such as the attack in Paris last week. The situation looks set to get worse when the Chancellor announces the Spending Review next week where further cuts of 30% are expected.

Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: “Finally, the government is admitting what we have known for years, which is that 999 response times are going up, and there is no doubt that lives have been lost as a result. In an emergency every second counts and reckless government cuts show they have scant regard for public safety. Since this government came to power the fire and rescue service has been decimated. We’ve seen 7,000 frontline firefighter jobs lost, 40 stations closed and scores of fire engines and equipment axed.

“The government’s own figures show how they are putting budgets before public safety.  George Osborne needs to take account of these figures ahead of next week’s Spending Review where we are likely to see more massive budget cuts. If they are implemented, we will see response times grow longer still and more people die as a result.”

“The DCLG excluded tens of thousands of incidents when calculating their figures as they don’t include fires where there has been heat or smoke damage only, so the true figure on lengthening response times is almost certainly far higher than they are admitting.”

Please see below an excerpt of the DCLG report:

“The average response time in England during 2014-15 to:

  • Dwelling fires was 7 minutes 45 seconds, an increase of 20 seconds since 2013-14, and an increase of 24 seconds since 2009-10. Fires in flats are responded to faster, on average, than those in houses/bungalows (6 minutes 56 seconds, compared to 8 minutes 10 seconds). This probably reflects that most flats are in urban locations, and easier to access for fire stations.
  • Other building fires was 8 minutes 28 seconds, an increase of 21 seconds compared to the previous year, and 32 seconds since 2009-10.
  • Road vehicle fires was 9 minutes 42 seconds, an increase of 24 seconds and 49 seconds since last year and five years ago, respectively.

The average response times across all location types in 2014-15 increased compared to last year and five years ago, and were the longest response times recorded in the past 20 years.

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