BBC investigation shows two-thirds of brigades have worsened
RESPONSE times across the country have gone up because of fire service cuts, a new investigation has found.
Two-thirds of fire and rescue services across England and Wales take longer to respond to emergencies than they did a year ago, new figures obtained by the BBC suggest.
The Fire Brigades Union (FBU), which has campaigned strongly against government cuts to brigades, has said that longer response times have led to an increase in the number of fire deaths.
Brigade budgets have been reduced by 17 per cent since 2010, official figures suggest.
A documentary aired on BBC Radio Five Live yesterday focused on the case of Bernard Lewis, an elderly man who died in a house fire on the Wirral, Merseyside.
Although the first engine arrived at the scene promptly, firefighters could not begin a rescue operation until a second crew arrived. The number of engines at the local station had been reduced from two to one.
“It seemed to take forever for the second engine to arrive,” Mr Lewis’s daughter Deborah Gibbons said.
The case echoes a case in north London last year, where 85-year-old Choi Yip jumped to his death from a blazing building. Crews were attend
ing a fire at a parade of shops some miles away.
It took more than 13 minutes for the first engine to arrive on the scene. The target response time is six minutes.
Four out of five brigades had seen worsening average response times from 2009/10 to 2014/15, the most recent official figures show.
But Freedom of Information requests sent in by the BBC to every brigade in England and Wales suggest around two thirds saw a further deterioration in the following year.
Out of 27 service areas which responded, 17 appeared to have got worse. In Essex, the average response time increased from less than seven minutes last year to eight minutes.
FBU general secretary Matt Wrack told the programme: “There is very long-standing evidence that the longer it takes to get to incidents, the more likely people are injured or killed.
“The fact that we are taking longer to get to incidents means there are people being injured or killed who would otherwise not have been.”
Fire Minister Brandon Lewis said there had been a “long-term downward trend” in both fires and fire deaths.