Save our stations plea as fire service faces £20m cut
Reporter: Marina Berry
Date online: 21 August 2013
A UNION boss is urging Oldhamers to reject fire service cuts that could hit staffing levels at Chadderton, Oldham and Mossley fire stations.
Dave German, a Fire Brigade Union representative and a Chadderton firefighter for 15 years, is calling on readers to voice cocerns with local politicians over more than £20million of cuts in local services.
Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS) says it needs to change the way some fire stations are staffed to save money.
Under the proposals - which are currently out for under consultation - Oldham station would be cut from 10-man shifts to eight men, day and night; Chadderton’s day shift would be cut from eight men to five — essentially leaving only one pump on duty, while Mossley fire station would be mostly closed at night.
The proposals are the second hit on local fire services: last year firefighters and manned appliances in Oldham were cut as part of a four-year plan to save £23 million. There has also been more than £6 million in back office savings, with 500 firefighter posts cut and senior officers cut by a third.
Worried firefighters now say lives could be put in danger - and Mr German warned that firefighters could be forced to stand and watch properties burn if there are too few firefighters present to operate in safety.
The proposals will see fewer fire engines during night hours - when sleeping families are at greatest risk.
Chadderton would have one manned fire engine available round the clock and one “reserve” - a ready-to-roll engine crewed from a central pool on demand.
Mossley would have no on-site firefighters at night, though a fire engine could be present when necessary - such as the run up to bonfire night or grass fire season.
Mr German said: “It’s a slippery slope. Who knows when the next house fire or crash will be? Ask the people who have had a house fire or a traffic collision what they think about it.”
Cuts in staffing levels leave a safety issue, he added: “Firefighters in Oldham are as brave as anywhere. But it’s a brave watch manager who arrives at a burning house who would commit his crew straight away without knowing backup has arrived. If firefighters got into difficulty there would be no-one there to assist. We are slowly but surely losing resilience.”
GMFRS says fires in Greater Manchester have fallen by 21 per cent in the last year and by 40 per cent over the last five years. Fire chiefs say there will be no station closures and no job losses and the current proposals would have the least impact in practice.
For details on the proposals see: www.manchesterfire.gov.uk/updates/station-resources-consultation-.aspx
Consultation ends on September 20.
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