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Tories play with fire as third of specialist engines axed
Firefighters blast cut in equipment designed to deal with terror attacks
CUTTING a third of specialist fire engines designed to deal with terror attacks will have “disastrous consequences” for public safety, firefighters warned yesterday.
Tory ministers are set to pull 22 of England’s 65 “incident response units” at the end of the month.
The vehicles were introduced following the September 11 2001 terror attacks and carry decontamination equipment to save lives after biological, chemical, radiological or nuclear attacks.
The decision follows a “review” undertaken by the Department of Communities and Local Government and the Chief Fire Officers Association.
But firefighters’ union FBU said the change was announced “without proper discussion or consultation.”
General secretary Matt Wrack blasted: “This is vital specialist equipment that can save thousands of lives in the event of particular types of terror attacks.
“Removing one-third of them significantly reduces capability across England — this isn’t scaremongering, it’s fact.
“The remaining vehicles would have to travel further, meaning decontamination would be delayed, possibly with disastrous consequences for human safety.”
The units contain decontamination facilities for the use of emergency services, public decontamination showers, gas-tight clothing and equipment for monitoring radiation and hazardous materials.
Thousands of firefighters have been trained in their use.
Four of the axed units are London, where Assembly member Fiona Twycross said it was “not the time” to cut provision for dealing with dirty bombs.
“Given the serious continued threat from terrorism, particularly with the capital being a major target, this is an incredibly risky proposal,” she warned.
“The UK threat level has been at severe for well over a year, with the Prime Minister admitting recently that seven terror plots had been foiled in the last six months alone.
“These are the kinds of units we hope we never have to deploy but if there is a serious terrorist incident in London its vital we have the equipment available to deal with it.”
Mr Wrack demanded: “Local communities have a right to know what has changed during 2015 to make them less at risk from these threats.
“Does the government think our communities have become safer? Are they assuming reduced potential casualty numbers? What are the changes to risk assessment? None of this is clear.”
Fire Brigades Union