CFOA President Vij Randeniya has led the tributes to West Midlands' firefighters who brought one of the region’s biggest ever fires under control earlier this month.
The West Mids chief said the brigade’s resources had been stretched to an unprecedented level, but firefighters from the West Midlands and neighbouring brigade had acted with courage and professionalism.
The blaze, at a plastics recycling site in Smethwick, led to almost 20% of available WMFS resources being deployed across four days (picture above, courtesy of www.wmfs.net). It also placed massive demand on the brigade's Fire Control room and other specialist teams, as well as several of its partner agencies.
CFO Randeniya said: "This was a difficult fire which we fought aggressively and assertively. It left us stretched but we were ably supported by colleagues from neighbouring brigades.
“Incidents like Smethwick bring into sharp focus the pressures under which we are now forced to operate. We are committed to maintaining our front line - but less and less money makes it increasingly difficult for us to maintain the necessary mix of prevention, protection and response.”
West Midlands Fire Service has dealt with around 15 serious fires involving the waste and recycling industry so far this year, nine of which required large numbers of firefighters and resources.
In the wake of this latest incident, WMFS are also urging community leaders and members of the public to discourage the use of the lanterns, on the basis that they constitute a fire risk when released.
The Service said in a statement: "There is evidence of these lanterns causing fires, wasting emergency services’ time, being mistaken for distress flares, misleading pilots and causing environmental damage.
"They also pose a risk to livestock, agriculture, camping activities, recycling sites and hazardous material sites. The risk of further fires can only increase as the lanterns become more popular. We do not support the use of these devices, and ask that members of the public and event organisers stop using them."
Since this call, budget chain store Poundland have announced they will stop selling lanterns.