THE FIRE Brigades Union (FBU) has reacted angrily to the release of new figures on fires and fire deaths by describing both the rise in fires for the second year running and the rise in fatalities as ‘horrifying’.
Fire incidents have increased in England by 9% for the year ending September 2017, having already increased the previous year (2015-2016). More worrying still, say the FBU, is that fire fatalities have also increased, even with the death toll of Grenfell taken out of the statistic – 346 people in England died in fires for the period, including Grenfell, compared with 253 the previous year. With the Grenfell deaths removed from the total there were still 22 more people dying in fires than the year before.
The union said that this increase has occurred against a backdrop of severe cuts to the fire and rescue service, which was cut between 2010- 2015 by 30%, with another 15% of cuts being implemented between 2016-17 and 2019-20, according to the Local Government Settlement announcement earlier this week.
FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said: “All we hear from government when they attempt justification of butchering the fire and rescue service is that ‘fires are down’ – this is now clearly no longer a claim they can make. They wrote off last year’s rise in fires as a ‘blip’ – what will they put it down to this year?
“It isn’t complicated – the fire and rescue service is cut to the bone, and the result is more people dying in fires because crews can no longer respond promptly and in sufficient numbers to tackle fires professionally, quickly and effectively. How many more rises in these worrying figures before they join up the dots? How many more people are going to have to die?