Firefighter warns of safety risk with high rise building fires if changes go ahead

March 14, 2019
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Surrey’s firefighters would not be able to tackle high rise building fires quickly and safely if proposed changes to the service go ahead, the county council has been warned.

Surrey County Council is consulting on changes which will affect response times and night cover.

Firefighters are concerned officer numbers will be affected due to posts lost through retirement not being replaced. And they fear cuts to night time cover will mean they cannot respond quickly to high rise fires while following all safety procedures.

Jeremy Spencer, a Sunbury firefighter for 19 years, raised his fears at SCC and Spelthorne Borough Council Joint Committee on Wednesday, March 13, stressing that councillors needed to respond to the consultation.

(Image: Surrey Fire and Rescue Service)

Mr Spencer said: “Fires in high rise tower blocks are particularly challenging for firefighters and are a substantial contributor to fire deaths both of public and firefighters in the past. As such we have quite strict safety systems at work which are very manpower intensive.”

He said with the arrangement of pumps proposed in the Making Surrey Safer document it would “no longer be possible” for firefighters to intervene in high rise fires within the timeframe that is set in their fire rating procedures.

It could effectively mean a choice between firefighters putting themselves at risk by going in without being properly prepared, or putting the public at risk by waiting for the right manpower and equipment to arrive.

 

Another Sunbury firefighter said the consultation was “poorly worded” and was so “awkward” that residents would not understand what impact the changes would make.

SCC cabinet member for community safety, fire and resilience, Cllr Denise Turner-Stewart, assured members of the committee that “no posts would be lost as a result of the proposals and no posts are being made redundant”.

Responding to the concerns about changes to the pump arrangements affecting high rise towers, she said: “These proposals are about saving lives. It’s about protection and prevention. These proposals are based on a very scientific risk profile.”

One firefighter has warned the changes will affect how they respond to high rise tower block fires
(Image: Steve Porter)

She said they had been checked by inspectors and government officers.

Councillors said they would look at the consultation document and Cllr Alison Griffiths is meeting with firefighters on Saturday (March 16) to hear their concerns.

Cllr Ian Beardsmore said: “It’s not just people’s lives at stake, we are actually putting our staff at risk. I think we need to make a very strong statement. It’s our residents and our firefighters who are at risk here.”

 

SCC’s Making Surrey Safer proposals include keeping the same number of fire stations and fire engines going but reducing night cover at certain locations.

The Fire Brigades Union said firefighters had already experienced “brutal cuts” with 131 firefighter positions slashed between 2010 and 2018 and that the proposed changes would cut a further 70 posts.

The consultation runs until May 26.

Article source: https://www.getsurrey.co.uk/news/surrey-news/firefighter-warns-safety-risk-high-15972598


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