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MP wants inquiry after Carlisle fire crew sent to rescue at Bolton

Baffled Cumbrian firefighters were called to a job more than 100 miles away – in Lancashire.

Tim Farron  photo
Tim Farron

Crew members at Carlisle East Fire Station were bemused when they received a printout asking them to help a man who was stuck at Rivington Reservoir, near Bolton.

The firefighters were able to arrange for a nearby team to assist instead but union chiefs have said the mix-up highlights problems with the control room which handles 999 calls for Cumbria, and is one of many such incidents which have occurred in the last few months.

They have now taken their concerns to one of the county’s MPs, who has called for an investigation.

A new regional control centre was opened in May, based in Warrington, Cheshire.

It handles calls for that county, Greater Manchester and Lancashire, as well as Cumbria.

Dave Burn, the brigade chairman of the Fire Brigade Union (FBU) in Cumbria, said: “The crew [at Carlisle East] questioned the mobilisation with fire control and the operators there. It was resolved without them having to go to Bolton.”

Mr Burn put the blame for this mistake down to software used in the control room, which he does not believe has been thoroughly tested.

He is worried this could put lives at risk as a result.

“Control operators are doing their very best but the technology is failing them; it hasn’t been fully tried and tested,” he said.

Mr Burn also claimed the control room was not always fully staffed, saying that seven members of staff should always be on duty but that sometimes numbers could fall as low as two.

“We have union members in the control room and they are in an uncomfortable position,” he added.

Tim Farron, the MP for Westmorland, has announced he will write to Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Communities, to review the situation.

He said: “This project has been called a ‘white elephant’ and it really is. How can we expect someone in Warrington to know the difference between Staveley-in-Westmorland and Staveley-in-Cartmel when someone calls in distress? I hope that Eric Pickles will urgently look at this new evidence and agree to a review of the situation.”

However, a spokesman for the control room defended the set-up.

He said: “The new North West Fire Control service has been successfully taking calls and mobilising fire engines and officers across Cheshire, Cumbria, Lancashire and Greater Manchester for over three months.

“During that time operators have shown great professionalism and dedication in dealing with more than 15,000 calls, including some major emergencies.

“In addition, they have had to work alongside officers in mobilising reduced numbers of fire engines to emergencies during the ongoing series of national strikes by the Fire Brigades Union.”

The spokesman added: “We have investigated the alleged incident in Carlisle and can confirm that no fire engine was sent from Carlisle East to attend an incident at the Rivington Reservoir in Lancashire.

“The incident in question was a water rescue that was successfully dealt with by Lancashire crews who were mobilised straightaway.

“The confusion seems to surround a printout message sent in error to Carlisle East however, this was immediately recognised as a mistake and no resource was ever mobilised.”

Have your say

Colin, that is exactly the point,this system software does not allow for this kind of mistake to be rectified and similar 'system errors' are happening every day.I'm sure you appreciate, by their nature, many of these faults cannot be rectified by 'pointing it out' or sending an email.Staffing has been as low as three operators to cover the whole region, even if they could when would they have time to 'point out the mistake?
In fairness to Tim Farron he did not support the project and in fact presented a 20,000 signature petition to Parliament opposing the closure of Cumbria control.

Posted by In the know on 29 August 2014 at 10:18

Sadly in this modern cost driven world things won't get any better. Trying to cut the cloth to suit the wearer doesn't alaways work, just have to hope your not the unlucky one who pays the ultimate price of just a mistake. I wonder if it will be a non story then Phil especially if if it's a relative of yours.

Posted by Anon on 29 August 2014 at 08:16

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