South Tyneside set to lose firefighters

Hebburn Fire Station
Hebburn Fire Station

Plans to cut the number of fighfighter in part of South Tyneside have been branded a danger to life.

New measures being proposed by Tyne and Wear Fire Authority, will see the crew numbers cut from five to four at Hebburn Fire Station.

Coun John McCabe

Coun John McCabe

The cuts are being planned at single engine stations in the brigade area.

The Fire Brigade Union warns the move would put both firefighters and the public at risk - a call backed by Hebburn South councillor, Coun John McCabe, who fears the plan would have an impact on public safety.

He said: “From a Hebburn perspective, we have already lost out when we lost one of our engines and any further reductions are not going to be conducive to public safety, especially in light of the Grenfell disaster.

“Fewer firefighters means less safety where I am concerned.”

It’s not good. Less numbers means less safety where I am concerned.

Coun John McCabe

He added: “Even with major technological advances, you still need the right resources. You can’t run a ship with half a crew.

“We are getting more houses in Hebburn, more shops, more businesses. We have more buildings than we have ever had before but we are reducing man power.”

The Fire Brigade Union argue that a crew of four firefighters is not able to provide the full range of aggressive firefighting tactics in “a safe, controlled and timely manner” that a crew of five can.

Russ King, secretary of the FBU in Tyne and Wear, said: “These proposals, if agreed by the fire authority, will put lives at risk. Fire crews will be under immense moral pressure to either act before appropriate resources are available at a fire or wait for sufficient backup. This proposal is not linked to any change in the risk faced by firefighters. It is a purely financially driven decision.

“Having only four firefighters on a fire engine will place crews and the public at an intolerable risk of serious harm or possibly worse. The fire authority should reject this unacceptable, dangerous proposal immediately”.

The Fire Authority will vote on the proposals on Monday, with changes to come into effect from January 1.

Assistant Chief Fire Officer Alan Robson, Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service said: “The safety of our communities and our firefighters is at the forefront of our decision-making. We use Integrated Risk Management Planning (IRMP) to balance the use of our resources with the risk to those communities.

“In 2014, following comprehensive analysis and extensive public consultation, the Fire Authority approved an IRMP action to change the crewing on fire engines at certain stations. The introduction of this action was agreed to be paused while we dealt with other IRMP actions. The significant financial constraints placed on the Authority now mean we are seeking approval to implement this action during 2018.”