Firefighters call for cuts agenda to be dropped on anniversary of Cathedral Yard fire

On the anniversary of the blaze that ripped through the historic Cathedral Yard area of Exeter last October, firefighters in the region are calling for an end to dangerous fire service cuts. The fire caused massive damage before being extinguished, and placed huge demands on the resources of the Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service who sent 150 firefighters to put the fire out.

Last Friday (20 Oct) Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Authority endorsed a draft Integrated Risk Management Plan (IRMP), the purpose of which the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) believes is to pave the way for more budget cuts.  The firefighters who responded to the Cathedral Yard fire and their colleagues are fearful that the lessons from this horrendous fire have not been learned, and that the destructive nature of such fires has yet to be fully appreciated. 

FBU brigade chair Scott Young said:

"Since the Cathedral Yard fire we have all witnessed the horror of Grenfell Tower, which is a wake-up call regarding the need for more effective fire and building safety, yet the draft IRMP makes no reference either to the demands put upon the service from major incidents like Cathedral Yard, or, even more significantly, the potential issues arising from Grenfell. This despite 10,000 businesses in Devon and Somerset being identified as 'priority addresses'.

"Instead, the draft IRMP - which proposes how the fire service will operate in the coming years – calls for a review of how many firefighters crew an engine, making the completely unsubstantiated claim that 70 per cent of incidents can be ‘fully resolved’ with just two firefighters. We believe this is an inappropriate and irresponsible statement to make.

FBU health and safety and Exeter Rep Dave Chappell added:

"There are already significant problems trying to maintain fire and rescue cover, especially in areas crewed by on-call firefighters, where currently there are on average 15 out of 108 fire engines in Devon and Somerset unavailable at all times, due to crewing problems. The answer, clearly, is not to recommend fire engines turn out with crews of just two, but to provide better remuneration for firefighters to enable adequate numbers to commit to this important and potentially lifesaving work”.

The FBU is asking for members of the public to support them in their campaign to prevent further cuts to the Service.

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