An elderly couple have died as a result of a fire at their home in Merseyside, a short distance from West Kirby fire station which was closed down last year following budget cuts.
The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) say that on the night of the fire resources were spread so thinly in the region - five fire engines were dealing with a factory warehouse fire in Birkenhead - that the full target response time to the house fire was missed.
Mark Rowe, Merseyside FBU brigade secretary, said: “This is an absolute tragedy for everyone involved. Our thoughts are with the family and friends of the couple and with the firefighters who attended the scene.
“Tragically, this incident highlights how the reckless Tory-led cuts have decimated our fire service and put our communities at greater risk. Fire cover in the Wirral has been rendered threadbare because of the cuts.
“As all the available fire engines were busy dealing with one fire this meant that fire engines had to be called from much further away. It means if we have two serious incidents at the same time it’s pot luck who gets the speedy and lifesaving response.
“Merseyside has suffered severe budget cuts, more than any other fire service, and fire deaths are now at a 10 year high as a result. The government needs to get a handle on the atrocious budget cuts they’ve forced fire services to make. If West Kirby fire station had remained open we could be looking at a different outcome today.”
Budget cuts to Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service has seen its number of fire engines available to respond to emergencies cut from 42 to just 28. Disturbingly, the Wirral area of Merseyside used to be served by nine fire engines but has been cut to five. All available fire engines were dealing with the warehouse fire and so were unable to attend the tragic house fire.
A fire engine attended the house fire from Upton fire station but remained without any backup for more than 10 minutes until a second engine arrived from Kensington fire station.