Bonfire night warning after loss of nearly 500 firefighters – attacks on firefighters increase by a quarter in 12 months

The public must show extra caution with fireworks and bonfires after the loss of 500 firefighters in England in the last year has left services struggling, their union said.

In a safety warning issued ahead of bonfire night, the Fire Brigades Union said the loss of professionals and services means it is taking 30 seconds longer for crews to reach callouts compared to 2010. The delays are the ‘difference between life and death’, according to the union’s general secretary.

Matt Wrack’s warning also referenced new figures revealing the growing problem of attacks on firefighters in England, now approaching a height of almost 1000 incidents per year and up by a quarter in a year.

Firefighters are covered by new legislation, which comes into force this month, that doubles the maximum prison sentence for assault on an emergency worker from six to 12 months. Under the law, courts must also consider the strongest penalties for other offences against firefighters and other emergency workers.

Matt Wrack, general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, said:

“This weekend, families up and down the country will enjoy firework displays, yet there are fewer firefighters to keep people safe. Since 2010, this Tory government’s negligence means that fire crews are now likely to take 30 seconds longer to respond to an emergency. In a serious fire, 30 seconds can be the difference between life and death. The government are playing with people’s lives and must take seriously the need for investment and more firefighters in our communities.

“Last week the Chancellor announced the biggest spending spree this Tory government has been on, yet not a penny will be seen by the fire and rescue services who need it. To add to the dismal offerings, the government have also failed to properly fund the removal and banning of combustible cladding on our schools, hospitals and care homes, leaving buildings unsafe.

“It’s despicable that anyone would attack firefighters, these are professionals who are committed to keeping our communities safe. Cuts by this government have led to the demolition of community engagement projects, which are proven to reduce anti-social behaviour - investment in these services is urgently needed across the board.”

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