Fire crews stretched to breaking point as fires rage across Home Counties

 

Firefighters are being stretched to breaking point after a series of major fires have raged across the Home Counties, the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has said. 

London Fire Brigade has sent crews to assist firefighting efforts in Surrey and Buckinghamshire leaving the capital at risk if a major incident occurred. 

Fire and rescue services have been cut too far and are no longer capable of dealing with every day, foreseeable fires in their own counties warns the FBU. 

Richard Jones, executive council member for the FBU in the South East, said: “The fires we have been attending are nothing out of the ordinary. They are fires in homes, in industrial units, in garden centres, in cars and a lot of heathland fires. Our bread and butter work. It is shocking that we have to rely on resources from London as we simply do not have the resources to do our jobs.

“Climate change experts have warned for some years that extremes in weather events are likely to become the norm but fire and rescue services are clearly not resourced to deal with these risks.

The union has criticised moves by some fire services in the Home Counties to cut the size of fire crews from five to four. Some services are even considering cutting crew sizes to just two firefighters. It means when crews turn out to an incident they have to wait for back up before tackling the fire with the result that more fire appliances have to be sent from farther afield. Concerns have also been raised over a shortage of firefighters within the two counties meaning a number of fire appliances are unavailable for deployment. 

Jones continued: “If I were a London council tax payer, I would be outraged that my home is being left with a shortage of crews in order to assist other regions which are not adequately funded to deal with totally foreseeable events.

“A lack of water pressure - or in some cases no water at all - is complicating firefighting efforts in Guildford and Haslemere. This is because water carriers from other parts of the country will have to supply firefighters with the water they need. This is time consuming and labour intensive; labour that they simply don’t have.  

“Fire Authorities should stop relying on the London Fire Brigade and instead fund their own fire services properly to deal with the foreseeable risks.” 

Notes

Since 2010, the following Fire and Rescue Services (FRS) have had the number of Firefighters decimated by these cuts as the table below shows: 

Fire and Rescue Service

Fire Fighters cut from 2010 to 2018

No. FF’s cut and as a Percentage of total

Kent 

499  =  - 30%

West Sussex 

305  =   -37%

Buckinghamshire 

249  =   -40%

Hampshire 

170  =   -11%

East Sussex 

150  =   -20%

Surrey

131  =   -17%

Oxfordshire 

90    =   -14%

Berkshire 

84    =   -15%

Isle of Wight 

55    =   -25%

Source: FBU Freedom of Information requests April-June 2017.

Photo credit: ©Jess Hurd/Report Digital

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