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Saturday, 04 July 2015

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Barrow nursery would have caught fire if cuts were already made

A BARROW nursery school could have gone up in flames if proposedservices cuts were in place, according to firefighters.

Tony Callister said Sunday’s fire was so ferocious that if they only had the one engine and had to wait for back-up from Ulverston it could have been the worst case scenario.

His colleague Ben Jones said once the second engine is removed staffing levels in Barrow will drop from nine a shift to four or five.

He said such numbers would make it difficult to man the aerial ladder platform.

On Sunday that appliance formed a “curtain” of water between Hindpool Nursery School and a blazing house and garage next door and stopped it spreading.

Mr Callister and union colleague Mr Jones also both said that the county council saying a resilience engine would be based at the station meant nothing.

They said it would never be used in normal circumstances and would only be brought into play during a major incident such as a terrorist threat or nuclear incident.

Tomorrow Cumbria County Council will make their final decisions on service cuts.

Barrow and Dalton firefighters say the proposals are not workable and people’s lives will be out at risk.

On Sunday six engines were needed to fight the huge blaze on Bath Street.

On Saturday two people were evacuated from a home in Millom after a fire in the roof space of their Oxford Street home.

Fire crews from Ulverston, Millom and Broughton spent three hours tackling the blaze. Crews were requested from Barrow but turned back en route as they were no longer needed.

Mr Callister, a Fire Brigade Union representative, said: “We had three incidents over the weekend that required back-up.

“If we have just one engine in Barrow and have to attend an incident such as the Bath Street fire then we are going to have to wait for back-up from Ulverston, or Walney if it can be manned.

“That fire was very ferocious and the worst case scenario is that the school would have set on fire because we wouldn’t have been able to contain it so quickly.

“If fire is billowing out you can’t effectively contain it with just one crew and it can escalate very quickly.”

Mr Jones was at the Barrow incident.

He said: “The fire was so intense that we could have easily lost the school.

“This time they were very lucky.

“We used the ALP to form a curtain of water between the fire and the school.

“If these changes go ahead we will drop from nine staff to four in the station. That means if we have to man the ALP it will be extremely difficult as not everyone is trained to use it.

“The resilience engine they keep going on about will not be used. It is only there for major incident such as the derailed nuclear train. The last big incident it was used for was the Grayrigg rail disaster.

“A fire needing six pumps is not classed as exceptional circumstances to use it.

“One thing about all this is that we are the only place losing fire cover in Cumbria. We are on a peninsula with one road in and out so we are in a unique position, yet we have been hit the worst. We are the only area in the county losing two engines.”

A Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service spokesman said: “The changes recommended for Furness are about shaping the service to the dangers that exist and ensuring the right personnel and equipment are in the right place at the right time.

“As a direct result of us putting prevention before cure we’ve seen a 37 per cent reduction in incidents across the Furness area in recent years.

“The feedback from the council’s consultation has been considered very carefully and as a result, the council’s cabinet has asked the chief fire officer to provide a resilience fire engine at Barrow fire station to be available to respond to major incidents alongside the four other fire engines at Walney, Barrow and Ulverston.

“This compares favourably to Carlisle, where there are two fire appliances based at two fire stations covering 45,244 dwellings.

“If these changes are approved on February 13 there will be five fire engines based at three stations in Furness.”


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