Fire Brigades Union

Fire Brigades Union

May 10, 2011 09:22 ET

Fire Brigades Union Warns Cuts Will Push Fire and Rescue Service to Breaking Point

LONDON, ENGLAND--(Marketwire - May 10, 2011) - The Fire Brigades Union says the recent spate of wildfires across parts of the UK highlights the danger of cuts to frontline fire services the Government is demanding over the next four years. The number and size of wildfires often need hundreds of fire crews and appliances working around the clock for days and even weeks to control and douse fires.

The union says the Government is failing to respond to growing pressures placed on fire and rescue services by climate change, pointing to mass wildfires in 2003 and 2006. In other years there have also been major flooding and extreme winter weather conditions lasting for weeks and even months.

Responding to these large-scale and prolonged problems are, by their nature, enormously labour intensive. The union is challenging Government to explain how already over-stretched fire services, which have seen years of cuts to frontline firefighters, will cope in the future.

It warns the cuts – fire services are seeing budget cuts of 25% over four years – will push the service to breaking point when dealing with major incidents.

FBU General Secretary Matt Wrack said: "Increasingly dry and warm weather have created the perfect conditions for the huge increase in the large number of wildfires so far this year. These incidents often result in hundreds of fire crews and appliances working around the clock for many days.

"Fire crews have been working up to 15 hours without a break in desperate conditions, well beyond accepted safe limits. They have been working to the point of exhaustion to protect their local communities.

"There has been enormous strain on officers and emergency fire control staff have also handled thousands of extra calls and been placed under major pressure. In some areas the fire service has been stretched so much in dealing with these incidents there are almost no crews or fire engines to deal with other emergencies.

"In the last few years we have faced huge numbers of incidents caused by climate changes. In 2003 we had 152,700 grassland fires, which was a near record and officially attributed to warm weather.

"There was major flooding in early 2004 and serious flash flooding in 2005. There were 93,500 wildfires in 2006, another spate year, when fire crews were stretched to breaking point dealing with large numbers of major fires and then flooding across the UK.

"In 2007 there were terrible floods which impacted on large areas of the UK. This was followed in 2008 and 2009 with other significant flooding.

"In recent winters serious weather conditions have stretched fire crews for weeks. The impact on the fire service of climate change is established, sustained and on-going.

"Frontline fire crews are demanding to know how the Government expects them to cope with large- scale and prolonged labour intensive incidents with far fewer frontline fire crews. We're over-stretched now, and frontline crews are making it clear we'll be at breaking point when the cuts bite."

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