Warning over fire service cuts

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A WARNING has been issued about the level of future fire cover across the region in light of the recent tragic house fire in Pocklington.

Keith Moore has been campaigning against cuts to Humberside Fire & Rescue Service over the past three-and-a-half years and he believes retained fire stations like Pocklington and Market Weighton are unable to compete with permanently-manned stations.

Councillor Moore, who serves as a Goole representative for East Riding of Yorkshire Council, contacted the Post following the Edward Street blaze last week, which cost 47-year-old mum-of-two Patricia Wray her life.

While he praised retained firefighters for the work they do, including Pocklington’s crews’ response to last Monday’s fire, he feels there should be more permanent fire crews with only two full-time stations opened in the region – one in Goole and the other in Bridlington.

Coun Moore said: “For a firefighter to get from home to the scene, they cannot compete with permanent crewed fire service. Permanent crews would save some minutes off those response times.

“Those extra minutes are vital and can make a difference between life or death.

“It’s no detriment to retained firemen, they do a superb job. It astounds me how quickly they respond. But there’s no way they can compete with a permanent crew.

“People need to start taking a serious look at what is happening to our fire service, the response times are getting longer.”

Pocklington and Market Weighton fire stations both have 21 retained firefighters who have full-time jobs as well as working for Humberside Fire and Rescue Service.

However, Coun Moore said he found out that from January until June last year, in other parts of the East Riding there were hundreds of occasions when retained firefighters were “off the run” – meaning they were unable to attend incidents and crews from further afield were called upon.

He believes this is evidence that retained fire stations are not as effective as permanently manned fire stations and that permanent crews need to be reinstated.

Coun Moore said: “I think it demonstrates that in a lot of cases the system is not robust enough to do what it’s supposed to do.

Richard Walker, brigade secretary for the Fire Brigade Union (FBU) in Humberside, agrees that retained firefighters cannot compete with permanently manned fire officers, but believes not much can be done because of the costs.

He said: “The response times are a little bit more, that is all.

“It’s difficult to argue against as it all comes down to cost. I don’t see any possibility of that changing at the moment.”

Humberside Fire and Rescue Service’s integrated risk management plan for 2011-12 states that in future, they hope to reduce the standard crewing level from five firefighters to four on all engines.

Coun Moore has criticised these proposals and claims they could make the fire service in the East Riding less effective.

Coun Moore said: “Without a doubt it’s going to make the situation even worse.”

Daryl Oprey, responsible for the integrated risk management plan, said: “We are looking at staffing them more effectively, not specifically those stations but all retained stations.”

FBU members marched round Hull last month in protest of plans to cut more than 170 posts.

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They believe cuts can only mean a reduction of the current standards in Humberside Fire and Rescue Service and delays in fire appliances attending emergency calls, which may put the lives of the public and the safety of firefighters at increased risk.

Pete Smith, FBU regional secretary, said: “The proposals that Humberside Fire and Rescue Service have put forward for consultation are a backward step in terms of public and firefighter safety.

“These cuts are about making money savings and nothing more.

“Has it come to the point where fire and rescue services are being asked to place monetary values on lives just to appease a coalition government who have reneged on their pre election pledges to leave frontline services untouched?”