We should be prepared for more heatwaves and the impact on fire services
The situation across the UK on the 18 and 19 July is a stark warning that we should be prepared for more heatwaves in the future. As part of its Community Risk Management Plan, Humberside Fire and Rescue Service (HFRS) plans for current and arising risks, including the impact of changes to our climate and the increased demands resulting from warmer summers and wetter winters.
Recent days have shown that we all have a part to play in reducing our impact on the environment. HFRS is committed to reducing the environmental impact of its activities and as part of its Environmental Sustainability Plan will continually seek more ways to improve.
Chris Blacksell Chief Fire Officer, said following recent events: “As the UK and other countries experienced record-breaking heatwaves, several fire services, including HFRS declared major incidents in response to the number of 999 calls relating to the increase in temperatures.
“Our staff worked incredibly hard and in challenging conditions. I’m so proud of their dedication to making sure our communities remain safe during this heatwave, which is becoming a common occurrence. Our crews responded to 3.5 times more than the average number of incidents for a Monday and Tuesday. Our Control Room staff received an unprecedented number of 999 calls and ensured crews and officers were deployed to incidents across the region.
“The increased temperatures present a completely different environment where fires burn with such ferocity and spread with such speed. The demand for firefighters and resources across the country meant neighbouring fire services were just as busy as we are, and so on and so on. I want to reassure our communities that we were able to maintain our response to the increasing number of calls and provide a great service that constantly achieves its response standards, and this is testimony to our staff's hard work and commitment.
“However, the impact of climate change which has been only too obvious in recent days, means that the government should take seriously how stretched all fire services across the UK have been over the last few years and question whether there are enough resources to ensure the UK is resilient for future years. The last couple of days suggests that at the moment that can in no way be guaranteed.
“Since 2010/11 HFRS has had to deliver efficiencies of £11M in response to funding reductions from the government and this is equivalent to £15M in today's money. Over this period, we have had to absorb pay and price inflation pressures that have impacted the Service and we are compounded by the government limit of 2% on the amount we can increase local taxation by. As most of our costs are on staff it has naturally meant we can’t afford to employ as many staff as we used to over a decade ago.”
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