Fire-fighters denounce plans to cut frontline jobs

Crews at fire stations are hitting back at plans to make cut frontline jobs, which they say will put fire-fighters’ lives at risk and reduce their ability to respond to 999 calls.

Fire crews at Greater Manchester, North Yorkshire and Essex are outraged at the Fire Authority’s proposals to axe fire-fighting jobs at each of their stations.

In some cases cuts include the post of the fire-fighter who controls and records the entry of officers into burning buildings, a role introduced in response to fatalities.

Essex fire crews are to be balloted for industrial action after they were told that 44 of the 990 full-time firefighters ready to respond to 999 calls will not be replaced when they retire. The cuts will mean only one of the two specialist fire engines can be operated at any time.

Greater Manchester said it would cut further posts from July this year, though the exact number has not been specified. Since 2002 more than 400 frontline fire-fighter posts have been axed at the brigade, a quarter of frontline fire-fighter posts, according to the Fire Brigades Union (FBU).

The Fire Authority has also outlined plans to cut jobs in North Yorkshire, including cutting crew numbers from five to four on some engines.

Mick Rogers, Essex FBU membership secretary and a fire-fighter at Colchester, said: “The fire authority claims this is about having the right people in the right place at the right time, but these plans simply don’t add up. Fire-fighters can’t be in two places at the same time.”

Peter Taylor, FBU brigade secretary at Greater Manchester, added: “More cuts will mean taking longer to attend a fire or other emergencies and there will not be enough appliances to cover in the event of large incidents. Fire does not wait, and it spreads very rapidly if left to burn for even a few extra minutes.”

However, fire authorities have said the changes to frontline officer positions did not compromise fire-fighter safety, but instead would improve the service delivered to local communities.

North Yorkshire Fire Service told the BBC it had “no plans to cut the number of firefighters on its fire tenders” as crews could redeploy officers where they were most needed.

County Fire Officer at Manchester, Barry Dixon, told Manchester Evening News: “Our latest changes form part of a long-term strategy to provide the public of Greater Manchester with an increasingly effective and efficient service.”

Chief fire officer at the Essex brigade, David Johnson, called the possible strike move “irresponsible”, and accused the FBU of using “spurious claims and misinformation”.

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