The safety of firefighters in Tyne and Wear and the public they protect will be put at risk if plans are given the go-ahead to reduce the size of fire crews, the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has warned today.
Tyne and Wear Fire Authority have proposed cutting the number of firefighters who serve on fire stations with only one fire engine from five, to four. But the union says a crew of four firefighters is not able to provide the full range of aggressive firefighting tactics (i.e. committing firefighters into a burning building) in a safe, controlled and timely manner that a crew of five can.
Fire authority members will be asking firefighters to undertake working practices on a daily basis, which national guidance stipulates is for exceptional circumstances only. It is a complete misrepresentation of the agreed standards, says the FBU.
Russ King, brigade secretary of the FBU in Tyne and Wear, said: “These proposals, if agreed by the fire authority, will put lives at risk. Fire crews will be under immense moral pressure to either act before appropriate resources are available at a fire or wait for sufficient backup. This proposal is not linked to any change in the risk faced by firefighters. It is a purely financially driven decision.”
“Having only four firefighters on a fire engine will place crews and the public at an intolerable risk of serious harm or possibly worse. The fire authority should reject this unacceptable, dangerous proposal immediately”.
The proposed changes will come into effect from 1 January 2018 on stations at Marley Park, Hebburn, Wallsend and Birtley before being rolled out to all other fire stations by June.
The fire authority will vote on the proposals on 6 November.