Firefighter staff cuts in North Yorkshire will lead to deaths, union warns

North Yorkshire Firefighters
North Yorkshire Firefighters

A North Yorkshire fire union has warned the number of deaths will increase with the force losing almost 10 per cent of frontline firefighters.

Since 2010, North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service has lost 35 frontline firefighters and had just 316 in 2015, representing a 9.9 per cent decrease, BBC figures revealed.

Simon Wall, chair of North Yorkshire Fire Brigade Union, blamed the Government’s continued public service cuts for the reduction in firefighters and said a ‘line in the sand’ needed to be drawn.

The budget for the fire services has been cut by £21.9m over the past five years with a further £15.2m due to be slashed by 2020.

In December, North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service approved Fire Cover Review plans to reduce the number of full-time staff and engines, saving them £1.5m a year.

Mr Wall admitted he was gravely concerned’ that job losses would continue to increase as part of the Fire Cover Review which, in turn, would leave residents at greater risk of being killed in a fire.

He said: “Fire deaths went up significantly last year so, mixed with an ageing population, people will be left a lot more vulnerable to fires.

“In the future, there will be fewer fire fighters showing up to deal with emergencies and, as the ageing population increases, I am worried we are going to see further deaths.

“Response times are still increasing, we are losing staff and we are losing engines.

“We are now having to crew fire engines below what should be the lowest national level in order to continue providing a service to the public.”

Owen Hayward, Head of Risk Management, explained that the Fire Cover Review was necessary due to the number of incidents they attend reducing significantly since the last full cover review was undertaken in the 1990s.

He explained that there was currently an ‘over-provision’ of resources in North Yorkshire and added extensive analysis had been undertaken into the working arrangements for the new Tactical Response Vehicles

The vehicles, carrying two firefighters, will arrive first on the scene to incidents but Mr Wall said both firefighters and residents will be at greater risk because of the plans.

He said: “As part of the Fire Cover Review, we predict 37-45 posts will be lost in that time and there’s no plan to replace them.

“Fire fighters are trained to serve the public and save lives. So standing outside burning buildings is not something we can see ourselves doing.”