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Tuesday, 21 October 2014

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Questions after nearest fire crew not called out to flooding

A COPELAND fire crew was not called on by the out-of-county control centre to help “stretched’’ firefighters tackle the recent floods, it has emerged.

The centre, based in Cheshire, did not turn out the Bootle appliance, which included a pump, to flooded areas of Copeland last month.

A Millom crew was sent to deal with flooding at Ravenglass instead of the Bootle crew which had the nearest engine.

There had been claims the Cheshire control had not realised Bootle was in Cumbria, but a spokesperson for Cheshire Fire and Rescue said: “This decision was not made in the control room, it was made by a fire officer on the ground who feared that local bridge disruptions might have hampered the crew’s progress, so requested an engine from Millom.’’

However, Coun David Moore, watch manager of Seascale Fire Station, said this “highlighted the weaknesses of an out-of county call room”.

The Bootle appliance should have been mobilised to assist the “stretched’’ firefighters who worked for over 15 hours dealing with the flooding in Egremont, he said.

The control centre, previously based at Cockermouth, was moved to Cheshire in June.

Cumbria County Council agreed the controversial move in a bid to save £222,000 a year, despite objections from the Fire Brigade Union which had warned that specialised local knowledge was crucial in identifying the location of an incident.

Coun Elaine Woodburn, leader of Copeland Council, also commented on the Cheshire control’s response to the Egremont floods.

She said: “I heard that members of the public rang the centre and were told by fire control that the water wasn’t high enough, it wasn’t coming through their properties, so they weren’t sending fire crews out.

“The local fire crews know the area and would have realised within minutes the water would rise into homes,’’ she said.

“This is one of the consequences of moving the control. It was said there would be risks if they took it away from Cumbria.

“It was pure luck no-one was hurt.’’

Coun Woodburn praised the work of the local fire crews, who dealt with the floods, calling them “exceptional’’.

A spokesperson for Cheshire Fire Control said they understood how distressing the floods had been. “However, we must disagree entirely with any claim that the performance of our dedicated staff compromised the safety of Cumbrian residents.

“On the night in question control staff worked tirelessly to deal with a large volume of calls relating to incidents across the county including flooding, house fires and a train derailment.

“We strongly dispute that anything would have happened differently if our Control room had been based in Cumbria.

“We must once again stress that the transfer of the Control facility has gone smoothly and the safety of communities remains our top priority.”

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