Image: Ryde Fire

The Isle of Wight Council’s cabinet member responsible for the Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service has condemned as “scaremongering” comments by the FBU, ahead of a cabinet meeting tonight (Thursday) which could see major changes given the green light.

The FBU says the plans will put the safety of the public and firefighters at risk, if plans to change the way they work are given the go-ahead when Cabinet Members meet in Ventnor.

Courtesy of Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue.

The FBU says councillors will vote on proposals which it says are “a desperate bid to save cash…disguised as realigning the currently employed, permanent, whole time firefighter resources to the times of greatest demand.”

Councillor Tig Outlaw says those claims are “irresponsible” and he says they “will worry residents needlessly.” Calling his proposals “common sense”, Cllr Outlaw says they realign full-time firefighters to meet need.

He said,

“I think most people will understand that having firefighters in the right place at the right time will save lives, not put them in danger. I make no apologies for proposing firefighters be on duty when research shows the risk is greatest.

“Research I’ve done demonstrates fire authorities across the country use this model. Listening to the FBU you could be forgiven for thinking fire services have stood still since the 1950s, but everyone knows this is simply not the case and that appliances, capabilities and equipment have progressed beyond recognition.

“The fire service on our Island needs to be more responsive to modern challenges and it needs to modernise. This is simply not about money, it’s about making the best of the resources to keep the public safe.”

You can read more about what is proposed and what it could mean HERE, in Isle of Wight Radio’s report published after the matter was discussed by scrutiny councillors on Tuesday.

Spencer Cave, Brigade Secretary of the Fire Brigades Union on the Isle of Wight, 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 cabinet should reject this unacceptable, dangerous proposal immediately.

“A crew of four not only puts firefighters at greater risk but also the public. You need five firefighters in a crew in order to carry out safety critical jobs. Anything less and it means we cannot properly prepare for either firefighting or rescue operations.

“There is a real possibility that a crew of four turn out to a house fire but cannot affect any rescues until backup arrives. They face a huge moral dilemma. Either break service protocol and begin rescue operations without the right support, for which they increase the risk of being seriously injured themselves, or they wait for backup and hope those in danger can survive. In most cases, the firefighters will step in but it is a very dangerous and hazardous way of working. There may be casualties as a result.

“Other fire services may operate with four crew. It is not right, but at least they have the support of other immediate appliances within minutes. The Isle of Wight does not have that capability or the immediate support from its neighbouring county.”

Howard Watts, the Island’s most Senior Fire Officer, added:

“While I recognise the FBU’s concerns, I’m responsible for the safety of our firefighters and I will not put them at any increased risk.

“This move will not change our policy on the number of firefighters on fire engines.

“I believe our firefighters are the best in the country – they’re trained and equipped to the highest of standards.

“These changes will improve the service they deliver, making the community safer.”