Warning as retained firefighter numbers fall
Less part time crew members could lead to less engines available for day time call outs
Analysis of fire statistics reveals that in 2017, there were 116 retained firefighters, down from the 143 available in 2002.
The number is at the lowest levels seen.
A retained firefighter is an on-call firefighter, and many have full-time jobs as well, with the Fire Brigade Union warning that the falling numbers across the country alongside these work commitments can mean no crew available to staff engines, especially during the day.
The decrease in the number of retained firefighters is happening while the population increasing.
In 2002, there were 693,829 people in the Buckinghamshire fire and rescue area. In 2017, the number of people had risen to 803,439.
In England, the number of retained firefighters has decreased from 10,613 in 2002 to 10,092 in 2017.
The number of on-call firefighters last year was the lowest over the 16year period.
Commenting on the falling numbers, Paul Revill, the chair of the Fire Brigade Union’s national retained committee, said: “Mainly it can cause serious problems during the daytime. This is because the lack of personnel is more evident during the day when the retained have to do their own jobs instead of being on-call.
“Basically, in the day- is time, there are fewer fire engines available because there’s no crew available”.
According to Mr Revill, there are three main reasons for this decrease.
He said: “Businesses are not willing to release people from work to attend the retainer system like they used to do in the past. It’s harder to get people doing the retained system because it is restrictive. People want to spend their free time with the family instead of being on call.
“The retained duty system doesn’t reward enough: the pay is not good enough.”
Retained firefighters are paid for the time they’re on-call to respond to emergencies through the Retained Duty System. When there is an emergency, retained firefighters are sum- moned to the fire station.
Mr Revill explained that outside big cities, which can afford more full-time firefighters, the fire service relies on retained firefighters, who cost less to employ.
He said a wholetime station with one fire engine will need 20 firefighters, four crew managers, and four watch managers - a rough total of £876,000 in wages. In comparison, an average retained station, has one watch manager, two crew managers and nine firefighters, who all work part-time.
He said: “Their retaining fee will come to around £36,000 annually in total. Their weekly training night wages will total around £25,000 annually. The rest of their wages are dependant on how many call outs they get during the year.
“As calls are down massively these days, due to years of community education and advances in car and building safety, many only earn a couple of thousand pounds per year from calls. So the average retained station wage bill will be around £100,000.
“So, although on paper, the retained fire station wage bill is £776,000 less than the whole time station wage bill, it has to be remembered that there is no guarantee that the retained station can form a crew and turn out the fire engine.
“It also takes much longer to get the retained fire engine out of the doors. Therefore, a brigade needs to have enough wholetime fire engines so that it can guarantee a safe level of service to the public.”