SURREY, ENGLAND--(Marketwire - Nov. 15, 2012) - The Fire Brigades Union is calling for immediate investment in front line services as official figures reveal Surrey's fire engines have been off the road an "alarming" 30,000 times in the past four years. The figures have been flushed out by a freedom of information request.
Richard Jones, Fire Brigades Union brigade secretary in Surrey, said, "These alarming figures back up FBU warnings that cuts to crewing levels and recruitment pose a real threat to public and firefighter safety. Some councillors have been staggered by these figures. Others have sought to brush them aside. They must act as an immediate wake-up call to all councillors. Complacency simply isn't good enough. Council tax payers across the county expect and deserve a properly funded fire service.
"Years of cuts and underinvestment are taking their toll. There is a freeze on recruitment - which should be lifted. Crewing levels have been cut from five to four firefighters in virtually all cases. There simply aren't enough firefighters in Surrey to crew the pumps with the bare minimum of four people, let alone the five we should have on every pump, as pledged by the council in its 2011 Public Safety Plan.
"But, astonishingly against this backdrop of cuts and underfunding, the council can find £680,000 to fund a pilot project with a private company as front line vacancies remain unfilled. Money should be invested in ensuring the counties fire engines are adequately crewed - not diverted to the private sector. Crewing levels have been cut from five to four firefighters per engine." Richard Jones called on councillors to act swiftly and for council tax payers to speak out.
"The crewing establishment in Surrey has been cut so deeply that pumps now have to come off the run in order for firefighters to be trained. To leave pumps with a crew of four is dangerous for firefighters as they don't have enough crew members to safely commit to critical procedures like wearing breathing apparatus, which means they should wait for a back-up pump to arrive. Out of the last 17 firefighter deaths in the UK, 11 were wearing breathing apparatus at the time they died. With the fire service stating that fire deaths in Surrey costs the tax payer an average of £1.4m each, surely it's cheaper to fund the fire service to save lives rather than pay the cost of death."