Fire Brigades Union

Fire Brigades Union

July 30, 2009 06:40 ET

Essex Already Stretched Beyond the Limit-30 Minutes Before First Fire Engine Arrived at Major Fire ....And the Cuts Are Still to Come

ESSEX, UNITED KINGDOM--(Marketwire - July 30, 2009) - Essex fire service was stretched beyond its limits by three major fires in the south of the county yesterday. Things got so bad it took approximately 30 minutes for the first fire engine to arrive at a major vehicle and pallet fire at a scrapyard at Chadwell St Mary.

Despite the very best efforts of firefighters, officers and our dedicated local control operators, there simply were not enough personnel or appliances to attend all the incidents within the times set down by the Fire Authority to the public.

The Fire Brigades Union says the current lack of resources would be made even worse if the cuts being proposed went ahead. Resources were also stretched to the limit in Colchester two weeks ago and raise similar concerns about the impact of future cuts.

The final large fire yesterday became a major incident and 8 fire appliances were in attendance at one stage. It was the third of three major fires and was quickly followed by a serious road crash in the space of an hour and a half.

Keith Flynn, FBU Brigade Chair said: "Fire service resources in the south of the county were stretched beyond their limits yesterday afternoon. Taking approximately 30 minutes to free up a fire engine to get to a major fire highlights how bad things are already before the cuts have even taken place.

"These were not the very busy conditions which we call 'spate conditions'. This was a busy period when we needed all hands to the pumps and we did not have enough firefighters, officers or appliances to cope properly with what we had to deal with.

"Every firefighter, officer and control room operator did the very best they could with the equipment and personnel we had available. But these incidents exposed the gaps and a 32 minute response to a fire is totally unacceptable.

"This is the second time in two weeks where all of Colchester's appliances were used at the same time. The theory that we don't use all appliances at the same time has been brutally exposed.

"Councillors and senior managers are never there when the problems created by them arise at incidents. They need to listen to the professionals at the sharp end and our message is this fire service cannot cope with more cuts."

In the space of just over 1 hour 30 minutes the following incidents took place:

14.51 Tilbury Power station fire. 8-pump fire. 8 mins from time of call to attendance. 2 Rescue Tenders required.

15.00 fire at static caravan park in Canvey Island -6-pump fire. Rescue tender from Colchester in attendance.

16.15 report of pallets and vehicles on fire at a scrap yard in Chadwell St Mary. Took approx 32 minutes for Essex to make an initial attendance at that fire as resources were stretched beyond the limit. - (This unquestionably resulted in the level of fire damage being greater than it need have been.)

16.20 road traffic collisions on A12 at Kelvedon nr Colchester. Three appliances needed. Rescue tender had to be sent from Harlow, because Colchester's rescue tender had already gone to fire at Canvey Island.

The cuts plans centre on how special appliances like rescue tenders and aerial (high reach) appliances are crewed. The cuts proposals would mean of the four appliances currently crewed (two fire engines, an aerial and a recue tender) in Colchester, there would only be enough firefighters for 3 appliances. Under the cuts plans it means you can never crew all appliances at the same time.

Yesterday, Colchester's high reach appliance was sent to Southend. The rescue tender had gone to the Canvey Island fire. Both were used at the same time, something the fire authority says does not happen.

In the future - with only enough fire crews for three of Colchester's four appliances - there would only be enough firefighters left to take out one of the remaining two fire engines. A minimum of two fire engines are needed for a standard house fire which means Colchester would not have enough fire engines in the future to deal with a house fire, one would have to be sent from further away.

On 14 July Colchester were called to a very serious fire at an industrial unit where the aerial appliance and rescue tender were required at the same time. Colchester's two fire engines were sent and then the aerial appliance and the rescue tender were also sent, all arriving within 12 minutes at the incident. In the future one of those appliances would not be available (there would only be enough firefighters to crew three of the appliances).

Yet again proof that these incidents can and do occur where more than one special appliance are required from one station at the same time whether at the same or different incidents.

The Fire Authority maintain that the reduction in frontline firefighters and availability of special appliances will not detrimentally affect the public. As recent evidence shows this is simply not true.

Contact Information

  • Mick Rogers
    07967 023709
    Keith Flynn
    07956 459111