Warn­ing as re­tained fire­fighter numbers fall

Less part time crew mem­bers could lead to less en­gines avail­able for day time call outs

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - NEWS -

BUCK­ING­HAMSHIRE

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.”

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