Firefighter numbers reach new low

Firefighter numbers have reached a new low since the beginning of austerity in 2010, according to new figures released today (Tuesday).
In an emergency dial 999 and ask for the fire service.In an emergency dial 999 and ask for the fire service.
In an emergency dial 999 and ask for the fire service.

One in five firefighter roles from 2010 no longer exist, according to figures released following a freedom of information request from the Fire Brigades Union, with a fall in numbers of 11,680 since then - leading to fears that firefighters will become even more stretched.

Since 2010 more than 8,000 wholetime firefighters have gone, out of the 11,680 total, and in the last year alone there was a loss of 185 firefighters, or a 0.4 percent decrease.

Climate change is thought to have increased both flood risk and the number of wildfires in the UK.

Lincolnshire Fire & Rescue have sought to reassure residents in the county that while they are always looking to recruit on-call firefighters, they have ample crews available to respond to incidents safely.

Chief Fire Officer Mark Baxter said: “We can assure residents of Lincolnshire that our main fire stations have crews available at all time and our ability to respond to incidents remains strong.

“We are currently recruiting more wholetime firefighters to make sure we maintain this availability in future.

“Since 2010, we have changed our crewing arrangements so we have fewer wholetime firefighters but an increase in On Call firefighters. We now have two more permanently-staffed fire stations and a small reduction in the number of personnel overall.

“We are always looking for more On Call Firefighters so if you are over 18 and live or work within 5 minutes of a fire station, you can find out more about the role on our website.”

The Fire Brigade Union has expressed concern that the fire and rescue service has been short-staffed to breaking point is also evidenced by a range of figures, with response times across all types of fires in England increasing since 2010, and fire audit and home fire safety check numbers in England constantly falling across this period.

The figures have been released just prior to Home Secretary Priti Patel’s speech to Conservative conference.

Matt Wrack, general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, said: “After years of huge government cuts and staffing falls there is a real threat that fire and rescue services may not be able to deal with every incident, and fight all fires: for example, we have heard senior service managers state that the public should lower their expectations that large wildfires can be tackled. The cuts are weakening the day-to-day work of the fire and rescue service in every single area; they are making people less safe. They also pose a threat to the ability to respond to large-scale incidents - particularly if more than one were to occur at the same time.

“Households deserve to feel protected. We all want to be able to walk past fire stations and know that there are enough people in there to protect us. And firefighters will always do whatever they can to save lives. It’s time the government does the same.”