Page last updated at 08:41 GMT, Tuesday, 26 May 2009 09:41 UK

Firefighters warn over crew cuts

Firefighters with breathing apparatus
Firefighters fear they will be in more danger entering burning buildings

Firefighters in North Yorkshire claim their safety will be jeopardised by plans to cut a key frontline role at a number of stations across the county.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) says the proposal includes cutting the crew from five to four on some fire engines.

The union says that would mean removing the firefighter who controls the entry of crew members into burning buildings.

However North Yorkshire Fire Service said it had "no plans to cut the number of firefighters on its fire tenders".

Dean McQue, head of service delivery for North Yorkshire Fire Service, said: "Long standing practice within the fire and rescue service is that fire tenders respond to incidents with a crew of four or five firefighters - this will continue."

The FBU insists that under current guidelines the first appliance to attend an incident should have no fewer than five firefighters.

It says allowing some fire engines to carry a crew of just four would mean the removal of the Breathing Apparatus Entry Control Officer (BAECO) - a role introduced after the deaths of several firefighters.

This places fire crews at a greater risk than they would normally face whilst on duty and we feel that management are ignoring our concerns
Sean Atkinson
North Yorkshire FBU chairman

The BAECO would instead work from a community fire safety van which they would use to get to 999 incidents separately.

North Yorkshire FBU chairman Sean Atkinson said: "Local managers are being instructed to remove firefighters from operational fire appliances and send them to ride on community safety vans.

"This places fire crews at a greater risk than they would normally face whilst on duty and we feel that management are ignoring our concerns.

"The role of BA entry control officer is vital to ensure that firefighters are safe when they enter a burning building."

Mr McQue said that at stations with one fire tender, when there was a full complement of five firefighters on duty, "one of them can be more gainfully utilised by being assigned to other community safety duties such as a community safety vehicle".

He added:"This vehicle can be called upon if needed to back up the crew on the fire tender at an incident, or even deal with minor incidents where a fire tender with a crew of four would be excessive.

"This practice does not compromise firefighter safety, but does improve the service delivered to the communities we serve in a very cost effective way."

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