Fire­fight­ers warn cuts are now ‘dam­ag­ing pub­lic safety’

Nuneaton Telegraph - - FRONT PAGE -

THE num­ber of peo­ple killed or hurt in house fires in War­wick­shire has in­creased by nearly a quar­ter – with fire­fight­ers warn­ing gov­ern­ment cuts were now “dam­ag­ing pub­lic safety”.

Home Of­fice data pub­lished to­day shows 18 peo­ple were hurt in pri­mary do­mes­tic fires in the county dur­ing the year to the end of March. A fur­ther one per­son died.

That to­tal of deaths and non­fa­tal ca­su­al­ties is up by 18.8 per cent com­pared to the 14 in­juries and two deaths in 2016/17.

The over­all num- ber of house fires also rose, from 161 to 164. The data comes with the fire- fight­ers’ union warn­ing that dras­tic bud­get cuts could have po­ten­tially fa­tal con­se­quences. More than 10,000 fire­fighter posts have dis­ap­peared since 2010. And re­cent fig­ures re­vealed the num­ber of home fire safety checks had dropped by 24 per cent since then.

Across Eng­land, the num­ber of do­mes­tic pri­mary fires rose by 401, from 30,343 in 2016/17 to 30,744 in 2017/18. Pri­mary fires mean they hap­pened in a build­ing that was not derelict at the time.

The num­ber of peo­ple hurt in house fires rose from 5,365 to 5,447, while the num­ber killed was up from 214 to 263. The fa­tal­ity fig­ures in­clude the Gren­fell Tower dis­as­ter, which took place dur­ing the most re­cent fi­nan­cial year. Some 72 peo­ple died in the blaze.

Dave Green, na­tional of­fi­cer for the Fire Brigades’ Union, said: “These dread­ful new fig­ures con­firm fire­fight­ers’ worst fears.

“Aus­ter­ity cuts are now dam­ag­ing pub­lic safety. For years, politi­cians have slashed our ser­vice and ex­cused their ac­tions be­cause long term im­prove­ments were still be­ing made. Now their fig­ures show the pub­lic is at greater risk. The Gren­fell Tower fire should have been a wake-up call. The West­min­ster gov­ern­ment should have re­acted by in­vest­ing in the fire and res­cue ser­vice, but in­stead they just keep on cut­ting. Fire­fight­ers have lost com­plete con­fi­dence in this Tory gov­ern­ment. They are putting the pub­lic at risk, while wreck­ing a well­re­spected, pro­fes­sional pub­lic ser­vice.”

An­drew Scat­ter­good, Re­gional Sec­re­tary for the Fire Brigades’ Union in the West Mid­lands and War­wick­shire said: “If any fur­ther proof was needed that the dev­as­tat­ing cuts to the fire ser­vice is hav­ing a cat­a­strophic ef­fect on pub­lic safety then we have it here. War­wick­shire have had 11% of their fire­fight­ers axed since 2010 due to hor­ren­dous bud­get cuts and the wor­ry­ing thing is that more cuts are on their way.

“Fire­fight­ers are try­ing their best to de­liver the best ser­vice they can, but it is sim­ply be­com­ing im­pos­si­ble for them to do so through no fault of their own. Fire­fight­ers have been warn­ing about this for years and their con­cerns have be­ing re­peat­edly ig­nored. The sim­ple re­al­ity is that cut­ting the fire ser­vice to the bone re­sults in pub­lic safety be­ing put at jeop­ardy.

“For the sake of pub­lic safety, the gov­ern­ment need to re­verse the dam­ag­ing cuts to the fire ser­vice which are ev­i­dently putting the com­mu­ni­ties of War­wick­shire at risk. The ques­tion to politi­cians is how many peo­ple have to die be­fore they take our calls for in­vest­ment and not more cuts se­ri­ously?”

War­wick­shire Fire and Res­cue Ser­vice re­spond War­wick­shire Fire and Res­cue Ser­vice’s Deputy Chief Fire Of­fi­cer, Rob Moyney said: “War­wick­shire Fire and Res­cue Ser­vice con­tin­u­ally mon­i­tor in­ci­dent num­bers and trends. Whilst we recog­nise that lo­cally there has been a small rise in cer­tain in­ci­dent types, which is mir­rored na­tion­ally too, it is im­por­tant to set these in con­text. The in­crease in house fire num­bers was just three fires across the whole county through the year and the in­crease in in­juries re­late to four ca­su­al­ties.

“War­wick­shire re­mains one of the safest parts of the whole coun­try and has the sec­ond low­est rate of ac­ci­den­tal house fires in Eng­land when the num­bers of fires per 10,000 dwellings is com­pared. Whilst we are proud of this record, we are not com­pla­cent and are al­ways look­ing to en­hance both our preven­tion ac­tiv­i­ties and emer­gency re­sponse ar­range­ments to make the com­mu­ni­ties of War­wick­shire safer.”

If fur­ther proof was needed that the dev­as­tat­ing cuts are hav­ing a cat­a­strophic ef­fect on safety, we have it here.

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