Firefighters are warning that plans to change the way the service is staffed on the Isle of Wight could mean they are unable to effectively tackle house fires or use lifesaving pieces of equipment.

They have told Isle of Wight Radio that the changes allow for four full-time crew members per pump, but say that the fire-brigade’s national safety rules requires them to have five in certain cases, for instance if they need to enter a building that is on fire.

Hear from Isle of Wight FBU’s Pete Mawhood:

Members of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) say they are angry that a review of the service will be discussed by leading Isle of Wight Councillors on Thursday, with no public consultation.

A barn fire in Bowcombe

As Isle of Wight Radio reported yesterday (Monday), the Isle of Wight Council’s cabinet is to discuss a report that proposes spreading full-time firefighters across three stations instead of the current two, while reducing full time positions, without redundancy.

The FBU says faster response times, slipping on the Island according to recent figures, mean nothing if fire crews are unable to do anything when they arrive on scene. The union disputes the Isle of Wight Council’s figures, saying that firefighters will fall from 58 to 50 as well as losing 5 retained positions. It says that Ryde and Newport’s fire stations are currently crewed by 7 people, not five.

Night Cover

The FBU says the plans could see the whole of the Isle of Wight covered by just four full-time firefighters overnight, backed up by retained (or part-time) firefighters who can take up to six minutes to leave the fire station, before travelling time. If a second back-up is required, the clock starts again. Full-time crews respond in 90 seconds.

Pete Mawhood, from the FBU on the Isle of Wight said:

“The system that the retained work under is dated and doesn’t provide a great service. The firefighters themselves do, the system doesn’t.

“We could end up with a situation where, if you have a house fire, you could end up with four firefighters. 99 per cent of our safe systems work around five as a crew.

“[If there is a house fire] officially, under our policy, we cannot go in [without five crew members]. There is no firefighter on the Isle of that wouldn’t break that policy an continue.

“It’s a huge moral pressure on officers in charge and fire crews …and it’s not something that we would accept.

“This decision should not be left to members of the cabinet who know very little about the fire service. This is a decision that needs to be talked about and discussed with members of the public. The public need to have their say on this matter.”