Cuts could have cost Tadcaster couple trapped in house fire their life, fire-fighter warns

Fire in Harrogate

Fire in Harrogate

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A Fire Brigades Union chief has warned a couple trapped in a recent Tadcaster house fire could have lost their lives following recent service cuts.

A disabled elderly man and his wife were rescued after a chip pan fire broke out in their Woodlands Avenue home on Monday, February 22.

Both fully crewed engines from Tadcaster were mobilised and used breathing apparatus to locate the man in his wheelchair before returning to find his wife.

However, North Yorkshire Fire Brigades Union chair Simon Wall has warned that the consequences could have been much worse for both occupants following the recent Fire Cover Review.

On December 9, North Yorkshire Fire Authority decided to replace six full-time fire engines with Tactical Response Vehicles (TRV) that would be manned by two fire-fighters.

The changes are due to be enforced in June 2017 and Mr Wall has warned the couple may not have survived if the Tactical Response Vehicle had been first to attend.

He said: "The second appliance, crewed by part-time staff, got to the fire six minutes after the first fire engine and were able to deliver oxygen and first aid to the couple who were both suffering from smoke inhalation.

"The reality of this situation is that in less than 16 months' time, the first appliance from Tadcaster in attendance will be a Tactical Response Vehicle carrying two fire-fighters.

"They would have had to wait for the part-time appliance to arrive before they could have carried out the rescues and finding then extinguishing the chip pan fire.

"Had this incident occurred 16 months later it would have been a very different outcome for at least one of the occupants at this fire."

Crews arrived to find the couple's home heavily smoke logged but were able to push the man out of the property in his wheelchair before going back in and carrying his wife out.

Mr Wall explained that the two fire-fighters inside the TRV would not have been able to use breathing apparatus in order to rescue the trapped couple.

"That would have been a TRV on its own for six minutes and the protocol is you need a minimum of four people to be able to use breathing apparatus," he stressed.

"They would have been very limited in what they could have done and we have grave concerns that one of the people trapped would not have survived the fire."

Despite fears from fire-fighters over the changes, head of risk management Owen Hayward has stressed serious incidents such as these have declined in recent years and back up would arrive very quickly should it occur.

Mr Hayward argued that despite being smaller and carrying less equipment, TRVs would be able to undertake ‘meaningful activity' when they arrived first on the scene at an incident.

The authority expects to save £1.78m a year by deploying the TRVs with £476,000 saved by replacing one fire engine at Harrogate station.

Mr Wall believes the TRVs will be a 'danger to both public and fire-fighter safety' and has urged the authority to reconsider their decision 'before it's too late'.