Fire Brigades Union

Fire Brigades Union

October 12, 2009 11:44 ET

Essex Fire Crews-Fire Service Needs to Re-Think Cuts After Series of Incidents Exposes Problems

ESSEX, ENGLAND--(Marketwire - Oct. 12, 2009) - Essex fire crews are asking for a re-think of cuts imposed on 1st October after a series of 999 incidents exposed problems. The union says the cuts have already started to impact on the service's ability to respond effectively to 999 emergencies.

The cuts to the crewing of Rescue Tenders (RTs) and aerial ladder platforms (ALPs) means they are not always available to respond to 999 calls when needed because there are too few firefighters to crew all the fire engines. The union warned that what might have looked possible in theory, has run into problems in practice.

It says the fire authority should pause for thought and re-think plans for frontline cuts.

Last week there was a fire in Colchester where the ALP and the two fire engines from Colchester fire station were being used. At the same time there was also a road traffic collision where Colchester's RT was needed - but there was no crew left at the station for the RT.

Before the cuts, Colchester's ALP and RT would both have had dedicated specialist crews available to immediately respond to both emergencies.

On another occasion last week, Colchester's ALP was mobilised to Chelmsford, at the same time there was a road traffic collision in Harwich but, due to the cut in dedicated fire crews, Colchester's RT was unavailable. That meant the closest available RT with a specialist crew was in Harlow.

Even on blue lights, a rescue tender travelling from one end of the county to the other - Harlow to Harwich - takes a long time. It also meant there was no RT at Harlow to attend incidents in that part of the County.

Later that same day there was also a major alert at Stansted. Before the cuts, Harlow would have sent its ALP and RT appliances to this incident.

But Harlow's now single specialist crew, was sent only on the rescue tender leaving Harlow's ALP sitting idle at the fire station without a crew. The ALP from Colchester had to be mobilised from the other side of the County, leaving that side of the County without an available aerial ladder or a rescue tender.

Things could have been even worse. It was only a matter of luck that the major alert at Stansted didn't occur when Colchester's ALP was in Chelmsford and Harlow's RT was on its way to Harwich. The next nearest ALPs are based at Southend and Basildon and the next nearest RTs at Leigh and Grays. Phase two of the frontline cuts will soon see these specialist appliances having their dedicated crews axed as well.

Adrian Clarke regional secretary FBU said: "These are real-life incidents where the lack of dedicated crews for specialist vehicles has brutally exposed the gaps. These incidents raise grave concerns about the impact of these cuts.

"What might work in theory is not working properly in practice. The impact is county-wide as we struggle to find specialist appliances to cope with the 999 emergencies which arise.

"Professional fire crews, officers and the control room will always do the very best they can with the equipment we have available. But the new crewing arrangements are already causing real problems and raising real concerns.

"In our view, these incidents show the public and firefighters are being put at increased risk. It may only be a matter of time before we lose a life or a major property because of these cuts.

"It's important we quickly re-think the impact of these cuts. I know the professionals at all levels of the fire service will share these concerns and will want to address them."

Contact Information

  • Media contacts:
    Mick Rogers
    07967 023709
    Lindley Chambers
    07792 741917
    Adrian Clarke
    07917 017713