The Trades Union Congress in Blackpool: Union claims fire service close to crisis

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A DOUBLING of false alarm calls and the rising number of responses to road traffic accidents are stretching the fire service to breaking point, the Fire Brigades Union said yesterday, writes Martin Whitfield.

Ken Cameron, FBU general secretary, warned that the increasing volume of call outs was delaying response times and putting safety standards at risk. 'Firefighters are no longer sitting around waiting for 999 calls. We are carrying out fire prevention inspections and giving advice.

'The number of fire calls has risen by 23 per cent and has doubled for other calls and false alarms. Staffing levels have risen by just 2.5 per cent,' he said.

The FBU is urging Kenneth Clarke, the Home Secretary, to conduct a joint review of the service to identify areas of potential danger. 'It's no good the FBU saying we need 5,000 extra firefighters. No one is going to take a blind bit of notice of that. We want a joint examination of the service,' Mr Cameron said.

Spending on the fire service has risen by about 3 per cent a year since 1979 to pounds 1.1bn. There are about 40,000 firefighters handling 600,000 emergency calls and 400,000 false alarms each year.