Cuts will put front-line lives at risk warns Harrogate fire-fighter

Harrogate fire-fighters
Harrogate fire-fighters

North Yorkshire Fire Brigades Union has warned that it won’t be long before a firefighter dies because of proposed service cuts.

Simon Wall made the chilling announcement after North Yorkshire fire crews were delayed responding to a serious fire in Kirkby Overblow on Saturday, November 21.

Fire crews were left waiting for additional pumps to help deal with the blaze, despite fears residents were trapped inside the house.

Additional crews from West Yorkshire helped with the fire but, after an hour of searching, it was determined no persons were trapped in the house.

Mr Wall has warned that these delayed responses and a reduction of whole-time staff will leave firefighters at an increased risk in future.

He said: “Unfortunately there was a delayed response to this serious fire due to the unavailability of pumps and we had to rely on West Yorkshire for two engines.

“If the proposed cuts to the service go ahead there will not be as many

whole-time firefighters responding to incidents and will inevitably lead to similar delayed response times.

“So, in regards to the serious fire on Saturday, there could have been just two fire-fighters arriving first on the scene but due to the fire’s severity, there’s nothing they could have done.

“There is a moral pressure on these fire-fighters so would they have been able to step back and do nothing? This question can’t be answered until we face that situation.”

Five pumps and up to 25 fire-fighters were called to deal with the fire on Saturday which left the building’s roof and ceilings on the brink of collapse.

An investigation into the cause of the fire is currently on-going but fire-fighters believe both smoke alarms in the house failed during the blaze.

Last week, The Department for Communities and Local Government announced the longest response times to fires in England for two decades.

As part of the Fire Cover Review, North Yorkshire is set to lose 43 frontline staff and replacing a fire engines with Tactical Response Vehicles carrying two fire-fighters.

Mr Wall said he is not surprised by the latest figures and warned that the loss of frontline staff and increased reliance on part-time recruits would only exacerbate the situation.

He said: “Due to the severity of cut backs in the fire service over the last 10 years, we have lost 5000 jobs and more than 40 fire stations have closed.

“With these further cuts we will have to replace whole time fire fighters that provide the back bone of the Fire and Rescue Service with part time recruits

“North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Authority have asked us to adopt other cultures approach and step back and wait for assistance if they turn up to a severe fire with just two people.

“That’s all well and good if that’s the culture but the English culture is to protect and prevent. I believe by these constant reductions it won’t be long before we are dealing with a fire-fighter death.”

With the consultation now closed, North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Authority explained they could not comment on the situation until after a decision was made on December 9.