From today (1 June) fire appliances in Tyne and Wear will be crewed by just four firefighters in a move the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has called ‘dangerous’.
The warning from the union comes after a major fire in Sunderland saw resources stretched to breaking point. The blaze at a recycling plant last month saw 13 appliances and 48 firefighters in attendance during which time left the rest of Tyne and Wear with as few as eight fire appliances and 40 firefighters ready to respond to other incidents.
Firefighters have warned that there will be far fewer resources from today. The staffing model sees two fire appliances removed from duty between midnight and 9am.
Russ King, secretary of the FBU in Tyne and Wear, said: “Never ending budget cuts are leaving the fire service with threadbare resources. Let’s be clear; every time we have a major incident from now on fire service resources will pushed to the limit. Lives are being put at risk.
“If there are fewer fire appliances with fewer firefighters, the lifesaving work they perform will be compromised. We are urging the fire authority to reverse the decision to remove the engines from the night time fire cover.
“Having a crew of four also puts firefighters at increased risk of serious injury. At least five firefighters are needed for example at a house fire so that they can follow proper firefighting procedures designed for their own safety.”
Tyne and Wear Fire Authority voted in December last year to cut fire crews to four despite severe criticism and warnings from the union.