There’s No Fire Without Smoke

OK, so it’s not the best title for a blog ever, but it does the job.

I have mentioned in at least one previous blog my concerns for the future of the Fire and Rescue Service.  If anything I’m more concerned now than I was then.  I fully accept that Fire and Rescue services all over the country are facing cutbacks of varying scales of enormity and significance and the the regional FBU offices are doing everything within their power to reduce the impact of these totally risky cost-cutting exercises

I do, however want to concentrate on London.  I used to live and work in London, before I discovered the countryside.  Over the years I have come to realise just how much we rely on our Fire Service, even when we don’t have an emergency we don’t know when the next one will be.

Before we settled here we lived in France for 5 years.  We had a modest, chalet-style house set in a forest 2,000 feet above sea level.  There was a lot of wood used in the construction of our house and we were surrounded on three sides by oak, beech and pine trees.  If ever there was a potential for a fire, it was there.  Fortunately we never experienced a fire close up, but there were plenty of forest fires nearby, particularly in the tinder dry summers.

We saw our local fire-fighters once a year when they knocked on the door just before Christmas selling the Pompiers’ calendar for the following year.  Let me tell you, I bought one of those things every year.  Firstly our local fire-fighters were all part time retained fire-fighters, and secondly if we had been unfortunate enough to have a fire it would have taken them a MINIMUM of 30 minutes to get to us.  A forest fire, or a house fire within a forest, can develop an awful lot in half an hour, and it is for that reason mainly that my respect for fire-fighters grew larger.

I’d always been around fire-fighters, my ex brother-in-law was one, the Fire Station was only 100 yards away from the nick and we were always having to cover for them until the Green Godess arrived, when they went on strike.

Then last week I found this item from the Socialist Equality Party, whoever they may be;

London Fire Brigade proposes closing a quarter of its stations

A Quarter???

London mayor Boris Johnson announced last month that the London Fire and Rescue Service must reduce spending by £65 million over the next two years.  A number of the proposals for achieving this that have been leaked to the press will all involve drastic cuts to staff and services. What is being demanded is nearly a 15 percent cut from the service’s £448 million annual budget.

The letter stated bluntly that it would not be possible to make the required cuts without cutting from frontline services.

Frontline services being cut, where have we heard that before?

King Boris apparently outlined 2 options for achieving the necessary cuts. Under the first plan, 30 fire stations would close and 30 engines would be removed, with a loss of 840 jobs. The second plan would involve the closure of 13 stations, the removal of 30 engines and the loss of 704 jobs. The projected closures cover around one third of the capital’s 112 fire stations.

I believe that one of the criteria used for identifying suitable stations to close was to identify the quietest stations in terms of number of callouts per year.  This would mean that Heathrow, the 5th quietest in London apparently, would be eligible for closure.  Would anybody really suggest closing Heathrow Fire Station?

Disgracefully, the demand for cuts was justified on the grounds of “the declining number of fire deaths”. These have fallen from 81 in 2001 to 55 in 2011, with 28 in 2012 up till the end of August.

A spokesman for the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) said “Clearly the idea of basing decisions on risk has gone out of the window and they are going to cut their cloth according to their budget. It’s going to have major implications for safety. Already five boroughs don’t hit their attendance times for the first vehicle and five don’t hit them for the second vehicle. What they’re proposing is slashing a service that has already been cut back over the last few years.”

In 2009, the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority awarded a five-year contract worth £12 million to AssetCo to provide frontline fire-fighters. The company already owned and maintained all of the frontline fire and rescue vehicles and operational equipment used in London and Lincolnshire. The Evening Standard identified this as ”£9 million for 700 reserve strike-busting fire-fighters.”  Sure enough, AssetCo strikebreakers were deployed against London fire-fighters striking against imposed cost-cutting roster and shift changes a year later.

The FBU are running a postcard campaign, asking everyone to get in touch with their MP to lobby them to get these cuts stopped and keep this emergency service running at the standard we pay taxes for. You can quickly email your MP using write to them,

The Police got their Pension Petition past the post, if you agree that this is a disgrace please consider signing the Fire Brigade’s petition against closing London Fire Stations

Whilst not in London, this article here shows what is current, now, in Birmingham another major city suffering the same sort of threats to their Fire Service.

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One thought on “There’s No Fire Without Smoke

  1. Pingback: When will they ever learn? | The Big Picture

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