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Saturday, 20 December 2014

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Crew shortages and industrial action affecting Cumbrian fire station

Parts of west Cumbria are being left without dedicated fire cover as a result of crew shortages and industrial action.

Fire engine photo
A fire engine

Whitehaven fire station has been left “off the run” on several occasions in the past fortnight.

Crews claim that there have been just two firefighters in the station on some night shifts – and it needs at least four people to man an engine.

The station’s ability to respond to fires is also hampered by the Fire Brigade Union’s industrial action.

Outside of strikes, members are taking “action short of a strike”, which includes refusing to work overtime and not “acting up” to take on the roles of more senior firefighters.

On some shifts, even where there are enough crew members, if there is no officer – and no firefighter will step in – then a pump cannot respond. Instead, they must wait for a retained fire officer to arrive, causing a delay in the initial response.

A spokesman for Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service said: “Firefighters are taking action as part of the national dispute between the FBU and Government.

“We are fully prepared for this and follow our business continuity plans to enable us to maintain a fire and rescue service capability.”

She said that plans have been drawn up on which pumps to prioritise, to ensure there are as many fire engines as possible.

On occasion this means firefighters travelling between stations to make up full crews, sometimes leading to firefighters from Whitehaven being sent to Workington where the enhanced rescue pump is crewed as a priority.

“Resources are matched to risk,” the spokeswoman added.

“While 999 calls will be answered as normal, Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service’s response to incidents where life is considered to be in danger will be prioritised.

“We’re again asking the people of Cumbria to reduce the risks of fire, driving with extra care to avoid the possibility of crashes and not calling 999 unless it’s a genuine emergency.”

Angry Whitehaven firefighters believe it is the public who are being let down.

“The Whitehaven public are not getting the service they deserve,” one said.

“On a number of occasions we have had enough personnel to provide a normal response, however we have been sent to other stations leaving us without fire cover.

“We need the public to be aware of the situation.”

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