Fire union warns lives could be at risk
By James HoreLIVES could be put at risk if the fire service pushes ahead with plans to change the level of cover provided in communities.That was the warning from the Essex Fire Brigades Union (FBU) about the effect of modernisation that will see more than 30 officers removed from frontline duty and stations being downgraded.
By James Hore
LIVES could be put at risk if the fire service pushes ahead with plans to change the level of cover provided in communities.
That was the warning from the Essex Fire Brigades Union (FBU) about the effect of modernisation that will see more than 30 officers removed from frontline duty and stations being downgraded.
Possible changes include the loss of the aerial ladder platform from Chelmsford Fire Station and the removal of one of the three fire engines from Dovercourt Fire Station.
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When the modernisation programme was announced, it was described as a “watershed” by Essex Fire Authority, which said there would be a greater emphasis on preventing, rather than reacting to, fires.
National fire standards, which were set in the 1930s and 1940s, are to be replaced with each county deciding what cover is needed.
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But the Essex FBU has claimed when the new standards are set in the county, they could be lower than those they replace.
Del Godfrey, secretary of the Essex FBU, said it would take between five and 10 years before all vulnerable sections of the society would be fully educated on fire prevention issues.
“Until we have completed all the community safety, then we should not be reducing the fire cover - they are jumping the gun with it and that will put people at greater risk,” he added.
“Every single station in the county could be at risk from downgrading - that is a possibility for every station in the county that is full time.
“The FBU believe that this is nothing more than a cynical attempt to save money - rather than leave the fire cover provision as it was and then request further funds to help reduce the level of deaths from fire, they are robbing Peter to pay Paul.”
The consultation process of the county' integrated risk management plan is set to finish at the end of January and the FBU urged members of the public to voice their opinion about the proposals.
Essex FBU chairman, Keith Flynn, said: “The fire service is relying on community safety initiatives to reduce the number of deaths from fires.
“While this is a good long-term strategy, reducing the level of fire cover can only put members of the public and firefighters at greater risk now and possibly increase the number of fire-related deaths.”
But Essex Chief Fire Officer, David Turner, denied the changes at Dovercourt and Chelmsford Fire Stations would damage the fire service.
He said: “The third appliance at Dovercourt is rarely used and the standard of fire cover will remain the same and I don't see any detrimental effects on the cover because of the changes there.”
Mr Turner added there would be an extra rescue tender at Chelmsford Fire Station to cope with road traffic accidents and would not be a reduction in cover.