Firefighters left at home as wildfires rage in Cleveland

Cleveland firefighters were left waiting by the phone as two wildfires ravaged local forests and moorland. Crews at the scene were stretched to the limit, while “complacent” management chose not to call in firefighters waiting on-standby, according to the Fire Brigades Union (FBU).

The news comes after Cleveland fire authority’s decision to introduce a minimum of 18 fire engines on duty in Cleveland. The FBU warned at the time that cutting the engines would impede firefighters’ ability to respond to multiple largescale fires at once.

Full time firefighters in Cleveland agree to be “on-standby” on a number of occasions each year, and wait by their home phone, ready to be called to duty. Should they receive a call, they are contractually bound to come to work.

Large forest and moorland fires broke out in Guisborough Woods and Eston Hills, after the hottest Easter bank holiday on record. Up to 30 firefighters have been battling difficult conditions and standing by at the scene of fires for up to 20 hours over the last seven days.

Davy Howe, Cleveland FBU secretary, said:

“The complacent attitude of the brigade is astounding. Crews were crying out for support, while management gambled and left willing and able firefighters at home. Additional firefighters at the scene would undoubtedly have been safer and more effective in tackling the huge fires.

“The clear consequence of the cut to the number of fire engines is that fewer firefighters can attend a fire. As a result, we’re pleading with the public to keep safe and be vigilant – whether out in the countryside, at home or at work. After relentless cuts to the service, Cleveland firefighters are no longer equipped to respond to multiple largescale fires.”

Cleveland FBU has repeatedly warned that cutting the number of fire engines to 18 would put the public in serious danger. The union will be reaffirming this position in light of the decision not to send on-standby firefighters to the weekend’s wildfires.

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