'Do we stand back and watch people burn to death?' - West Yorkshire Firefighter Union hit back as the true extent of government cutbacks are revealed

'Do we stand back and watch people burn to death?' - These were the remarks of West Yorkshire's Firefighter Union as the true extent of government cutbacks were revealed.

Wednesday, 6th October 2021, 4:45 am
Updated Wednesday, 6th October 2021, 9:36 am

Numbers released today show that thousands of firefighting jobs have been cut in the past decade with the overall total now hitting a new low.

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The Fire Brigades Union have said that one in five jobs have been lost since 2010 meaning numbers across Britain have reduced by 11,680 people, including 615 in West Yorkshire alone.

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UK wide firefighter numbers have been cut by almost 12,000 in the past 10 years. Picture: Rui Vieira/ PA Archive.

Speaking to the Yorkshire Evening Post, David Gillian a representative of the West Yorkshire Firefighter Union revealed the true price of the cutbacks and said: “If you have a person trapped in a house fire then it's about how fast you can get three engines there, not just one, as we aren't supposed to commit men in until sufficient back up has arrived.

“Delays can leave firefighters in a moral dilemma of do we put the firefighters at risk by committing them to the fire without the proper safety procedures in place or do we stand back and watch people burn to death.”

Over the past decade fire services across the country have been faced with a whole host of cutbacks including a decrease in crew size with firefighters onboard an engine reducing from five to four and a mix of both station closures and station mergers.

These cutbacks have led to entire areas of the region being left under-staffed and unprotected with Mr Gillian stating: “People sat at home sometimes don't realise that they are sat there with no cover. You can have an area as big as Bradford City Centre to the Airport to Harrogate to Skipton with literally no fire cover.”

Three fighters must be on the scene of big fires before firefighters are allowed to enter. Picture: Tony Johnson.

There has been criticism of government claims that up to 3,000 new firefighters have been recruited with unions revealing that there has also been a lack of replacements for senior firefighters who have retired.

A statement from West Yorkshire Fire Service said: “Our number of firefighters has remained fairly constant over the last three years and we have no plans to reduce firefighter numbers in the foreseeable future.

"We continue to recruit regularly to both our whole time and retained services to ensure that our staffing levels are maintained.”

Mr Gillian added: “The changes aren't necessary because of a change in need in the fire service, it is purely budgetary and lives are being put at risk. Both the public lives and firefighter lives.”

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