lynchFIRE Editor Andrew Lynch reflects on the Fire Brigades Union’s decision to vote in favour of national strike action and looks into how one fire service is coping with adversity

As members of the Fire Brigades Union have voted overwhelmingly in favour of national strike action, it is perhaps a portent of things to come that government and media attention was focused entirely on the decision of whether or not to take military action against Syria. It won’t stay that way, when the strikes take place, but it more than hints at where priorities lie. Remember National Strike #2 and the Iraq War, anyone?
Whereas the Knight Review was launched on the crest of a slow news days, thus garnering extra lashings of media attention, Matt Wrack and co barely got a look in. And unlike National Strike #1 and #2, this time they’re facing a Conservative (albeit coalition) government. Do not underestimate the possibility for a more radical approach.
The subject matter could not be more different. As FIRE Correspondent Tony Prosser points out on pg 8, the gulf between public and private sector pensions could not be wider and public support may wane as soon as strike dates are announced (the ‘gold-plated pensions’ label will be bandied around mercilessly, no doubt). A stark picture all round and sadly, everything points to a lose-lose scenario.
Coping with austerity/adversity is a recurrent theme. Greater Manchester’s future scoping, begun at the time the financial crisis first hit, determined that there would be a decade and beyond of harsh times. The scale of cut-backs was even greater than they could ever have imagined, but it did set in motion a transformative approach that may point the way forward, perhaps more so than the government-friendly Mutual Model, less appreciated and understood outside Cleveland.
The Future of Firefighting project (see pg 11) contains nothing new in and of itself: thermal imaging, cold cutting and positive pressure ventilation have been around for decades. However, as Chief Fire Officer Steve McGuirk told FIRE, it is about how these come together, and how these technologies have been fine-tuned to inform a sound firefighting strategy for the future.
Although borne of necessity, the initiative is values-driven, the ethos being “to protect and improve the quality of life of people in Greater Manchester”, whilst embracing latest (cold) cutting-edge technology to underpin the new approach.
It is heartening that FIRE was one of the first ports of call to begin the research into new technologies. This being the Show Issue for the Emergency Services Show, there features a host of suppliers providing thought-leading articles throughout. This exemplifies Sir Ken Knight’s calls in the last issue to work closely with UK Fire plc as world-leading technology providers.
So sits political unrest, ever-decreasing budgets and remarkable innovation and support. Throw in the FIRE/LHD Group UK Beyond the Call of Duty Award winners (pg5) and there is the Fire and Rescue Service today: on the whole a remarkable group of people facing ever-increasing challenges, with ever-decreasing margins.