Friday, September 30

Firefighters ‘completely unprepared’ for high fire risk in UK, warns union | fire fighters


The Fire Brigades Union has warned that the UK is “completely unprepared” for the fire risk posed by the latest soaring temperatures, as the Met Office issued its highest warning under its Fire Severity Index.

the “exceptional” red fire risk warning covers much of central of southern England this Sunday, when temperatures are expected to have exceeded 35C for fourth day in a row for the first time since 1976.

During last month’s record-breaking heatwave, scores of homes were destroyed as dozens of blazes broke out.

Riccardo la Torre, national officer for the Fire Brigades Union, has warned that cuts to services across the UK have left fire service unable to deal with a repeat of those scenes.

Speaking to Sky News, he said: “These are brutal, brutal fires to fight. The temperature that they burn at, the speed at which they spread at.

“The reality is we’ve been left completely unprepared to do that as a fire and rescue service.

“We’ve had over a fifth of the workforce cut since 2010, that’s over 11,500 firefighters cut. Yet we’re asking them to deal with these extreme weather events in increasing regularity and increasing severity.”

La Torre warned that the lack of preparation threatened the lives of fire officers.

“The professionals on the ground have been warning that these conditions are coming and we very much saw the reality of that in these last few weeks.

“Firefighters have been injured, firefighters have ended up in hospital, we’ve seen families lose their homes, we’ve seen businesses lost, infrastructure burn to the ground, because we simply can’t get to these fires quick enough.

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“When we do, we simply don’t have the resources to deal with them adequately.”

Mark Hardingham, chair of the National Fire Chiefs Council, said the fire service was “well prepared” to respond to a high volume of calls.

But in an interview for the Daily Telegraph, he warned that the prolonged dry and hot spell created an “unprecedented” risk of fires.

He said: “I can’t remember a summer like this and I’ve been in the fire service 32 years.”

A Met Office amber extreme heat warning came into force on Thursday and will be in place for the next four days. It covers many parts of southern and central England and part of Wales.

Meanwhile, the trade body representing water companies said a decision on the declaration of an official drought was imminent.

Stuart Colville, director of policy at Water UK, said that it was looking “increasingly inevitable” that the Environment Agency would declare a drought in England.

Speaking to BBC Breakfast, I added that this would be the “right decision given some of the pressure on the environment that we’re seeing at the moment”.

Several water companies have imposed hosepipe bans or are preparing to do so, and have been criticized for the failure to prevent leaks.

Colville said companies had a “constant battle” to stop water leakage but that the industry was doing “everything possible” to do so.

He said: “Although we are currently seeing the lowest level of leakage on record, it is a constant battle because, particularly in hot, dry conditions, what happens is the soil dries out, cracks, and it moves, and that puts additional pressure. on the pipes, and that can cause additional bursts.”

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www.theguardian.com

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