The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has accused the government of misrepresenting the downward trend in fires to legitimise severe budget cuts to the emergency service. The allegation comes as the union releases a new video which documents the increasingly diverse nature of the work that firefighters do.
Firefighters rescued nearly 40,000 people last year, according to official figures and, of those, just 10% were at fire-related incidents. Although the number of fires they respond to is decreasing, the video ‘Firefighters – for every risk you face’ shows how they are receiving more call outs to road traffic accidents, flooding incidents and medical emergencies.
Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: “Government ministers completely miss the point when they justify cuts to the life-saving service by saying fires are down. Fighting fires is just one part of a whole range of work firefighters do. For instance, 75% of all boat rescue teams – who were called out over the Christmas period to rescue people from flooding – are made up of fire and rescue service workers. The government also often forget that the decline in fires is down to the enormous amount of prevention work firefighters do in their local communities, including education and youth engagement projects.
“The fire and rescue service is under considerable strain. Since 2010, the Government has cut its funding to the service by 30% resulting in 7,000 frontline firefighter job cuts. This inevitably impacts on the ability of firefighters to respond to incidents swiftly and safely – 999 response times are at their worst in 20 years. In a life or death situation, every second counts.
“It costs you just £1 per week for a 24/7, all hazard rescue service. That is incredible value for money. But our service cannot take any more cuts and needs investment in order to keep the public safe.”