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Annan fire crew sent to crash - near Abbeytown

A fire union has called for the return of Cockermouth call centre after firefighters were sent on an hour’s drive to rescue a trapped lorry driver despite another crew being nearer the scene.

The Fire Brigades Union blamed the loss of “vital local knowledge” after a crew from Annan was called to the crash more than 32 miles away at Kelsick, near Abbeytown, when a Carr’s Flour Mills HGV ploughed into a ditch before overturning.

The driver was taken to hospital while firefighters dealt with a diesel spillage.

With crews at Wigton and Silloth – the two stations nearest to the scene – unavailable at the time, a crew from Aspatria was dispatched.

But control centre workers in Winsford, Cheshire, sent the crew from Annan as back-up based on information from their computer system.

A Carlisle-based firefighter told the News & Star he heard a “strange call” over the radio from the Annan crew asking for directions to the scene.

He added: “There were several appliances near to this incident including ourselves. The control centre in Cheshire, having no local knowledge, relied on the computer to identify the next nearest appliance which, as the crow flies, would come up as Annan.”

He also claimed this was one of several similar incidents since the control centre was controversially moved from Cockermouth to Cheshire in June 2012.

“This is not the fault of the control room staff but of the systems they have to use,” he said.

After the closure of Cockermouth’s control room, Cumbrian MP Tim Farron warned the regionalisation of emergency call rooms “could potentially put people’s lives at risk’.’

Les Skarratts, Fire Brigades Union (FBU) regional secretary for Cumbria, said yesterday the incident “demonstrates perfectly that the loss of the Cumbria fire control to Cheshire means the loss of vital local knowledge – leading to issues like this”.

He added: “Local fire control operators have the local knowledge to direct the best fire appliances to emergencies and not simply the nearest as the crow flies, which leads to slower response times and more hazardous incidents.

“Fire and rescue authorities should heed the FBU’s call and ensure local fire controls remain, or in Cumbria’s case, are returned to the local areas to best protect the communities we serve.”

Bruce Wilson, station manager at Workington, attended the incident and confirmed the Annan crew was sent back soon after being dispatched.

He said any delay in crews arriving at the scene was “minimal”. He also said the driver had already been helped out of the lorry by a passing motorcyclist and wasn’t seriously injured.

A Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service spokesman added: “An appliance from Annan was mobilised but was called off as no additional firefighters were required at the incident.

“The mobilisation of the Annan appliance rather than a vehicle from Carlisle was due to a fault with the routing system, which is now being resolved.”

Have your say

Marra - you are right on the nail. Attendance times used to be legislated for - but no more. If you look at the budget of the Fire Service and compare it with the cost of paying out every person who has had a fire or been in a RTA it would be physically cheaper for the taxpayer if they were simply compensated ... quite a thought but the figues are in the public domain.

Posted by Joy on 24 August 2013 at 22:43

Strange comment made for the RAC, Joy, who promise to be there within 40 good for the fire service !! or maybe you know something we don't ? The standard of the service has dropped, no doubt about it

Posted by marra on 23 August 2013 at 20:24

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