Fire service bosses say they’re satisfied public safety will not be compromised despite a decision to temporarily remove a fire engine from Melton Station during the current strike action.
Two and one-hour strikes have been taking place from Saturday (August 9) until this Saturday (August 16) between noon and 2pm and 10.59pm to 11.59pm.
Steve Lunn, Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service’s assistant chief fire and rescue officer, confirmed that the Melton engine, staffed by retained crew, had been re-located to an undisclosed ‘strategic base’ on the strike days but would be returned to the Melton station as soon as the action had ended.
Mr Lunn said the decision to relocate the engine was taken so that people could be ‘put in place’ quicker during the transition from ‘normal’ operational circumstances to the ‘emergency measures’ implemented to deal with strike action periods.
And he reassured the people of Melton that if the second appliance was needed to attend an incident he would be able to get it there.
But concerned Melton resident Andrew Lloyd questioned why the engine had been removed from the town station for the whole eight days of the strike when the industrial action was only three hours of the day.
Mr Lloyd, of Brampton Road, said: “I fail to see the logic in removing the second fire engine for the remaining 21 hours. I was very concerned on hearing the details of what this means regarding certain calls. For a house fire or road traffic collision a second fire engine would need to be sent from another station, but at best the closest one 15 minutes away. Meanwhile, though firefighters are available, a fire engine remains unused. It’s just madness.”
In response Mr Lunn said: “Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service would like to reassure everyone that we are doing everything we possibly can to safeguard our communities during every period of strike action.
“By August 16 we will have implemented ‘emergency measures’ to deal with 45 periods of strike action. During ‘normal’ circumstances we are able to provide an operational emergency response capability consisting of 30 fire appliances based at 20 fire stations throughout Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland. The emergency measures we have to introduce reduces this capability to only being able to crew six fire appliances that are based at six strategic locations.”
He added: “Throughout every period of strike action to date we have been able to maintain the availability of one fire appliance in the Melton area and we’re as confident as we can be that we will be able to maintain this provision if more strike dates are announced.
“Melton isn’t our busiest operational fire station. It deals with about 300 calls a year, under normal circumstances, a small percentage of which require a second appliance.
“Just as soon as this period of strike action is concluded, the appliance will be returned. The reason this decision has been taken is to ensure the transition from ‘normal’ to ’emergency measures’ can be achieved as quickly and seamlessly as possible.
“In support of this decision we have introduced revised arrangements to ensure that if an incident occurs during ‘normal’ circumstances, requiring more than one fire engine to attend, reinforcements from other stations can be mobilised quickly and effectively.
“While we acknowledge it may take slightly longer for a second fire appliance to attend an emergency incident, we are satisfied that public and firefighter safety will not be compromised.”
“I’m sure that everybody will recognise that they are most at risk during the periods of strike action. As such we’re urging everyone to access a wide range of community and business safety advice that we have provided on our website (www.leicestershire-fire.gov.uk)
The Fire Brigade Union (FBU), which announced the latest eight days of strike action, said the Government hadn’t improved its pension proposals for England and Wales, which it claims are unworkable, unachievable and unfair for firefighters.
Graham Vaux, secretary of the FBU in Leicestershire, said: “We’re still in dispute with the Government and unfortunately having to call more periods of strike action which is incredibly disappointing.
“The strikes are intended to be disruptive and inconvenient but it’s completely unnecessary that Melton is left with less fire cover for a large proportion of the time when we’re not taking action.
“I can’t think of any reason other than it’s inconvenient for the fire service to keep picking up and dropping off the second appliance.”