Fire service rejects union’s claims of ‘unsafe’ crew levels

New Avon Fire Service Engines.

New Avon Fire Service Engines. - Credit: Archant

Trade union claims that Weston-super-Mare’s fire appliances are being sent out on emergency shouts with unsafe crew levels have been denied by Avon Fire and Rescue Service (AF&RS).

Weston and North Somerset District Trades Union Council warned this week ‘that lives are being put at risk’ as a result of cuts made to firefighter numbers.

The union, which is affiliated to the Fire Brigade Union, claimed reductions in staffing mean appliances based at Weston ‘are frequently riding with four instead of the minimum five firefighters required to respond in a safe and effective manner to incidents’.

This comes just weeks after the redundancy of a specialist 12-man team based at Weston Fire Station was confirmed as part of a cost-cutting drive designed to save £5million across the service.

A union spokesman said: “The understaffing of our fire and rescue service is putting lives at risk, including those of the brave firefighters who put their lives on the line to protect us all.

“We call on the next Government to reverse these dangerous cuts to avoid unnecessary loss of lives.”

The union went on to say ‘response times have got slower’ because of reduced crew numbers, and highlighted a 17 per cent rise in fire fatalities across England over the past 12 months.

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However, a statement released in response by AF&RS denied any suggestion that crews are staffed below any minimum standard, and indicated response times met or exceeded expectations in 92 per cent of incidents.

The spokesman told the Mercury: “The number of firefighters needed to respond safely and effectively to an incident is entirely dependent on the nature of the call and in that respect there is no ‘minimum’ standard, as suggested by the union.

“In areas of highest population density in Avon, such as Weston, our response standard is to have the first fire engine on scene within eight minutes in 85 per cent of incidents.

“These standards continue to be met by our crews, despite reductions in the size of our workforce and budget.

“There is no evidence to suggest a reduction in the number of firefighters we employ has put the public at risk.”