Increase in fires met with more government complacency, says union

By agency reporter
August 12, 2019

The Fire Brigades Union says fires in England have increased by almost 10 per cent this year, while the government continues to cut fire and rescue services. The overall number of incidents, including flooding and wildfires, attended by firefighters also continued to rise, amidst heavy cuts to fire and rescue budgets and firefighter numbers.

The latest Home Office data show:

  • There were nearly 10 per cent more fires than during the year before, with firefighters attending over 180,000 fires
  • The number of overall incidents increased by two per cent this year, with firefighters attending a total of 575,000 incidents
  • Non-fire incidents totalled 160,000, five per cent higher than in 2010
  • Fire fatalities have fallen by 25 per cent, largely because of the 72 lives lost at Grenfell Tower the previous year. The government is still only reporting 71 of the deaths from Grenfell as fire deaths, omitting Maria Del Pilar Burton from this figure, who died in hospital seven months later

Matt Wrack, FBU General Secretary, said: “These latest figures confirm what firefighters are feeling on the ground – they are under increasing pressure, responding to more incidents with scarcer resources, as budgets and firefighter numbers continue to be cut. Shamefully, firefighters are being thanked for their efforts this year with yet another real-terms pay cut.

“We are deeply concerned that, after massive cuts to fire safety officers and years of fire safety deregulation, there has been a significant increase in fires in England. We have warned of the impact of climate change on fire for the last decade, but the government has failed to listen. Long, dry summers are making fires more likely, while firefighters are responding to a huge number of floods across the country.

“The Westminster government has been utterly complacent about fire safety for years and it is clearly taking its toll. We urgently need to invest in fire and rescue services and to radically boost firefighter recruitment – people’s lives, homes, businesses, and communities are at stake.”

The news comes as central government continues to cut funding for English fire and rescue services, which will fall by £155 million in 2019/2020, representing a 15 per cent cut from 2016/17 to 2019/20. This follows a 30 per cent funding cut between 2010 and 2015. Firefighter numbers have fallen by a fifth since 2010, while the number of specialist fire safety officers has been cut by a quarter.

* Fire Brigades Union https://www.fbu.org.uk/

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