Public safety is being put at risk as a result of a staffing shake-up at Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service which will see fewer firefighters on fire engines, the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has warned.
The union says there will be ‘dangerous delays’ in the time it takes for firefighters to carry out rescues as a crew of four firefighters will have to wait for back up before committing fire crews into a burning building.
Last month, Tyne and Wear Fire Authority agreed to reduce the number of firefighters on board a fire appliance from five to four. The changes first came into effect on 1 January 2018 at stations in Marley Park, Hebburn, Wallsend and Birtley before being rolled out to all fire stations by June this year.
Russ King, brigade secretary for the FBU in Tyne and Wear, pointed to a recent incident in Sunderland as an example of how important the fifth crew member is.
He said: “In December, a fire crew from Marley Park station rescued a child from a house fire and carried out lifesaving first aid until the arrival of paramedics. Without the fifth firefighter, the rescue would have been delayed until backup arrived from other stations. If this incident had occurred after the reductions came into effect then the outcome could have been tragically different.
“This incident clearly demonstrates the importance of the fifth crew member - four firefighters are not able to provide the full range of firefighting and rescue tactics in a safe controlled manner that a crew of five can. Tyne and Wear Fire Authority need to immediately reverse the decision to reduce the number of firefighters in a crew.”