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Tuesday, 17 December, 2002, 15:02 GMT
Fire incident 'rise' sparks row
Firefighters at Euston fire station in London prepare to return to work
There are tensions between the sides
A bitter war of words has broken out between the government and union chiefs over new figures analysing the work of firefighters.

The estimates for 2001, released by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, show a 10% increase in fires or false alarms across the UK, and a jump in fire-related deaths from 595, in 2000, to 606 last year.

Andy Gilchrist
Gilchrist is determined to fight on

Ministers, who want to cut house fire deaths by a fifth, took the statistics as further evidence of the need for radical modernisation suggested by recent the Bain review into the service.

However. the Fire Brigades' Union (FBU), which is still threatening strikes in the new year, have dismissed the figures as "grossly misleading."

The Fire Brigades' Union said they ignored a downward trend in fire deaths over the last 20 years.

FBU General Secretary Andy Gilchrist said that, between 1981 and 2000, deaths from fires were reduced by around 37%.

He said: "The figures highlight the urgent need for the government to act on the Union's 'invest to save' programme by expanding on existing prevention work and more community fire safety."

Among Mr Gilchrist's key concerns are proposals to cut night time fire cover.

"Modernisation needs properly thought out proposals by people who know what they are talking about," he said.

Fewer deaths

A White Paper setting out legislative and other changes needed to reform the fire service is to be published next spring.

The Bain review, published on Monday, recommended a two-year pay rise of 11%, tied to sweeping changes in working practices.

Bain proposals
11% pay rise over two years
Changes to shift patterns
Charges for false alarm calls
Insurance firms charged for road accidents
Extra medical training for firefighters

The FBU is planning two 48-hour strikes on 28 January and 1 February, unless talks with conciliation service Acas are successful.

Fire minister Nick Raynsford said: "This latest data is more proof that total reorganisation of the fire service is required if Government, employers and firefighters are to give the public the emergency protection it needs.

"We want to see fewer deaths and injuries and a cut in the financial and social cost of fires and other hazards.

"This will only be achieved by creating a modern, flexible organisation centred around the need to prevent fires breaking out in the first place"


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26 Nov 02 | Politics
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