£2.5m fire cuts spark warning of danger to public

A UNION is claiming the public will be put at risk after councillors agreed £2.5m cuts in the fire service, which will see 60 firefighters’ jobs axed.

Although there will be no station closures, two fire engines, one in Hull and one in Grimsby, will be removed and two others replaced with small fires units.

In total, there will be 60 job losses, but no compulsory redundancies, with the fire service aiming to phase out roles through natural wastage.

Councillors who sit on Humberside Fire Authority decided to cut the number of crew members on all fire appliances in the city from five to four.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has insisted the changes will also put crews in greater danger, claiming there would be a moral pressure for firefighters to go in and fight a blaze even if it meant breaking their own safety procedures.

FBU regional secretary for Yorkshire and Humberside Pete Smith said: “I appreciate the situation of the Chief Fire Officer and staff, this ultimately comes from Government.

“The Government needs to have a look and see they are going too far – fire services are being decimated.

“We will only have one pump now in East Hull. They say there will be a back-up engine coming in five minutes, but you can die many times over in that time.

“Crews will be in danger and the public will be in danger.”

The fire service has previously admitted there would be a “slight” increased risk as well as an impact on response times, but not taking them below the level set by the fire authority.

Chief Fire Officer Richard Hannigan said that with the addition of a small fires unit, which is manned by two firefighters, a total of 10 firefighters would attend property blazes in Hull.

He said he believed the public recognised “that the fire and rescue service had to reduce the amount of fire engines it deploys in certain areas”.

He added: “I think that the public have seen that what we have done is reasonable and proportionate.

“There could be a small increase in risk, but we are still capable of meeting response standards which are very robust.”

He added: “The cuts have been made in areas that traditionally have been very well provided with fire appliances. In Hull there are seven full-time fire engines today. Once the initiative is in place there will be six, but we will be bringing in a small fires unit, which will be attending property fires and so there will be one extra firefighter attending.”

Altogether the cuts will save £2.5m out of £5.7m, leaving around £3m to be found over a four-year period.

Mr Hannigan said brigade chiefs would look at slimming “non-front-line” services further.

The fire engines to go are the second engine in East Hull and one from Peaks Lane and Cromwell Road fire stations, which are to be merged.

The appliances at Cleethorpes and Waltham are to be replaced with small fires units which will be used to tackle incidents in the Grimsby, Cleethorpes and Waltham areas.