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Friday, 18 April 2014

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Cuts to have massive impact on response times, say Barrow firefighters

BARROW firefighters say they seriously fear someone could die if services are slashed any further.

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CONCERNED Fire Brigades Union representatives Tony Callister, left, and Ben Jones say planned cuts are not workable JON GRANGER REF: 50058199B000

In an unprecedented step two firemen say they have broken ranks because they say staff moral is at an all time low and they seriously fear the worst.

They have decided to speak out because they want the people of Barrow, Ulverston and Dalton to know that they want to be there to protect them but are scared they won’t be left with the resources they need.

Fire Brigades Union representatives Tony Callister, a firefighter of 24 years, and Ben Jones, who has served for 17 years, said planned cuts are just not workable and they are already struggling.

Mr Callister, who is also a Cumbria county councillor, said under a new proposal there would be just one engine at Barrow and another moved to Ulverston, which would also have a part-time retained engine.

He said that would leave one engine in Barrow covering a population of 56,000 and 14,000 in Dalton if that station closes. Ulverston’s would also cover Dalton and their own population of 14,000 as well as attending incidents in Barrow and up to Newby Bridge, if needed.

Mr Callister added: “Basically, this means if we were called to a house fire on Abbey Road there would be four of us on one engine. When we arrived we would not be able to enter the property until back-up arrived. That could mean someone was in the house who needed rescuing but we couldn’t go in. They could be hanging out of the window but we couldn’t go in until there were eight of us. If the engine in Ulverston was at another incident we would have to wait until one of the retained fire engines arrived if there weren’t out on other jobs, and how long could that take?”

He said on Christmas Eve they were dealing with storm damage on Roa Island when they were needed at a house fire in Barrow. Dalton and the two in Ulverston were not available and engines had to be brought in from Broughton and Grange. “This took time and if we had needed to go in we couldn’t until they arrived,” he said.

Mr Callister added that planned cutbacks would have a massive impact on response times in a time when they were already struggling. He said firefighters were already sat there on shift worried about being able to respond adequately.

Mr Jones added: “We just can’t work effectively anymore and people’s lives are being put at risk.

“This is a big cry for help from us. We are at tipping point and we just can’t take it on the chin anymore.

“We are extremely concerned and have limited resources and are struggling.”

Mr Callister said: “I have a sheer fear for the residents, as a firefighter and an elected councillor, that we simply can’t deliver the service they deserve and something is going to happen and someone could lose their lives as a result.”

A Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service spokesman said: “Targeting our resources at fire prevention activity has brought about a major reduction in the number of incidents across Cumbria in the last six years so our proposals are about better reflecting current risk patterns and shaping the service to the dangers that actually exist.

“In Barrow we’ve seen a 39 per cent reduction in the number of fire incidents over the last three years alone as a direct result of us putting prevention before cure when it comes to dealing with fires.

“While a full-time fire engine would be removed from Barrow, it would be relocated to Ulverston, thereby giving a wider full-time fire and rescue footprint across the area and, of course, Barrow’s fire engine would arrive at incidents in the same time as it does now.

“Where second pumps were removed from four fire stations in 2007, it did not affect the service’s ability to respond to incidents effectively and the number of fires in those locations continued to fall.”

Have your say

CCC Cumbria County Council.Should read Cut Councillors Costs.

Posted by Salthouse Boy on 18 January 2014 at 14:02

I know the County Council has to make cuts, but please leave the emergency services alone. This is a vital service that will be stretched too far, the whole of Furness and surrounding areas will be affected by this.

Posted by A Gill on 17 January 2014 at 23:27

View all 13 comments on this article

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