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Friday, 24 October 2014

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Fire crews issue a crisis warning

WHITEHAVEN firefighters are warning the public to “be vigilant” after crew shortages have resulted in inadequate night-time cover.

THANKS FOR YOUR SUPPORT: Two of the Whitehaven firefighters wave their thanks to the drivers who were honking their support

On several occasions in the past fortnight only two firefighters have been based at the station – and that has meant BOTH fire engines have been “off the run”.

At least four firefighters are required to man an engine (or pump) – and in the case of a call-out to a property fire, three engines are needed.

Speaking exclusively to the News, angry Whitehaven firefighters say this was the first time in Cumbria that a full-time and retained or part-time pump have been off the run at a station simultaneously.

“The Whitehaven public are not getting the service they deserve,” they said. “Over the past two weeks, night-time crews have seen at least one pump off the run. When both engines were off the run, we realised the situation was desperate and we had to speak out.”

The firefighters say their numbers are also reduced when arriving on a shift, because two of the four-man crew are sent to cover crew shortages at Workington Fire Station.

They said: “Also on a number of occasions we have had enough personnel to provide a normal response, however we have been sent to other stations deliberating leaving us without fire cover.

“When the public pass our station they see three vehicles which they believe are ready to go at a moment’s notice,” firefighters said. “However, they should not be reassured.

“We need the public to be aware of the situation. They need to be vigilant at the moment, particularly during the night-time when they are more vulnerable.

“Five years ago there was at least seven on a crew. Over time this has steadily been reduced until we are now on the bones of our backsides.”

An overtime ban by the Fire Brigades Union, which sees firefighters working to their contracted hours, has highlighted the crew shortages. The ban is part of the FBU’s dispute over pensions. Firefighters say vacancies are also left unfilled following retirements.

“As firefighters when we receive a call-out we need to deal with the incident before it escalates,” they said. “However, crew shortages mean we may have to wait some considerable time for back-up before we can safely deal with it.

“The irony is that some of the back-up from Workington will be Whitehaven firefighters imported onto their crews. It is a scandal for the Whitehaven community.”

A Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service spokesman said: “Firefighters are taking action as part of the national dispute between the FBU and Government. Outside the periods of strike action, the FBU are undertaking industrial action in the form of ‘Action Short of a Strike’. This involves members refusing to do voluntary overtime and also refusing to ‘act up’ to a higher rank.

“We are fully prepared for this and follow our business continuity plans to enable us to maintain a fire and rescue service capability. We will always prioritise available resources to make as many fire engines available as possible. Our business continuity arrangements involve combining crews or relocating managers to cover key appliances. Resources are matched to risk, so sometimes when Workington or Whitehaven do not have a full crew or manager, the Enhanced Rescue Pump at Workington – a fire engine which carries extra specialist rescue equipment – is crewed as a priority. This has meant on occasion that the Whitehaven regular pump has been unavailable. Any additional crew members at Whitehaven are combined with the station’s retained crew to maximise availability.

“While 999 calls will be answered as normal, our response to incidents where life is considered to be in danger will be prioritised so we’re again asking the people of Cumbria to reduce the risks of fire, drive with extra care, and not call 999 unless it’s a genuine emergency.”

Have your say

so hang on a minute then, the spokesman is saying that the firefighters are not prepared to work for free, or to act up to the next level of responsibility without being paid for it, well to be honest with you GOOD !, and neither should they, they do a full time profesionall job, and should be treated like it, pay them the hours they work, or are on call, and if they are doing a superiors job, pay them for it, lets see a politician do it for free, and not collect their expenses etc, or even a full time worker, that is not in the public sector, nope dont think so, been there seen it done it myself, good luck to them, stay safe lads

Posted by paul on 18 August 2014 at 16:59

Everyone who voted for this current government is to blame!
If labour was still in power non of this would be happening.

Posted by butler on 17 August 2014 at 14:01

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