Union boss Mark Stilwell says lives are at risk

Part-time crews at fire stations are putting resident’s lives at risk, the East Midlands Fire Brigades Union has said.

Mark Stilwell, Region Secretary of the East Midlands Fire Brigade Union, said: “Current shift patterns are definitely putting lives at risk.

“It’s difficult to quantify, but it’s going to have an impact on response times.”

This comes after a blaze at a house in Kirkby-in-Ashfield on Saturday (January 29).

Two people were rescued from their burning home by firefighters but died at the scene.

Fire crew from Hucknall, Mansfield, Eastwood, Chesterfield and Alfreton attended the incident.

Budget cuts saw the scrapping of permanent crew in Ashfield in 2018.

Wholetime teams man Ashfield Fire Station from 8am to 6pm on a three days on, three days off basis.

When they go home, retainer on-call crews provide cover during the night.

They must live or work within five minutes from the station on Sutton Road to ensure a fast response.

When the station was alerted to the house fire on Forster Street just after 7pm on January 29, the full-time crew had finished their day shift.

Eastwood crew, training at Ashfield Fire Station at the time, were able to attend.

Mr Stilwell added: “Using retainer crews at night at Ashfield Fire Station doesn’t really add up.

“A lot of the time, there’s nobody there.

“It was fortunate that they were there, but it doesn’t always happen.”

“At night there’s a greater risk of fire because people are sleeping, but there tends to be less fires.

“Ashfield, a deprived area, is particularly at risk.”

County Councillor Tom Hollis (Ind, Sutton West) said a full-time 24-hour crew would have attended the incident more quickly.

Cllr. Hollis said: “It’s completely inappropriate.

“Gone are the days when firefighters respond to just save lives.

“A lot of the Service’s time and resources are now spent on campaigns.

“It’s a no brainer, absolutely full-time crews would have got to the house fire quicker.”

He remains angered by the Service’s cuts and says Ashfield should be prioritised.

Cllr Hollis added: “Why cut the crew of such heavily used stations?

“Ashfield is a particular risk given its proximity to Junction 28 and the M1.

“It’s also a poorer area, so fires are more likely. This is particularly the case in the evenings, it’s the nature of the beast.

“Minutes matter, and the lack of permanent crew adds about 7-12 minutes onto response times.

“Retainer crews are at home watching telly or eating dinner when they are called out.”

Fire Service documents from October 2021 said: “Of the two day shift crewing stations, the position is improving at Retford, but still remains challenging at Ashfield

“In order to mitigate unavailability in some sections such as Ashfield, cover is provided by appliances from other areas.

“It is important that on-call staff are able to work as flexibly as possible, so the service is investing in a new, easily accessible rostering system that will facilitate this.”

Recruitment and on-call availability have been issues for the service.

Documents added: “A local contract is being trialled with more flexible terms, to make the role more accessible.”

A spokesperson for Nottinghamshire Fire Service said: “The first responding crews to the house fire in Kirkby-in-Ashfield on Saturday 29 January came from our Ashfield Fire Station.

“Eastwood crews were training at Ashfield Fire Station at the time, and were on scene within six minutes of the initial 999 call.

“Our Wholetime crews aim to arrive at all incidents in an average of eight minutes from the time we send the fire engine to you, in line with national targets.”