Fire union says tower block fire response a '˜postcode lottery' in Grenfell aftermath

The ability of fire crews to respond promptly to life threatening tower block fires is a '˜postcode lottery', according to the Fire Brigades Union (FBU).

Photo Kelly Cooper

New ‘staggering’ research released in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower tragedy suggests vastly differing levels of firefighting resources around the country.

This, the union says, means that the ‘pre-determined attendance’ (PDA) to a fire – the numbers of fire engines that should automatically be sent to a fire or other incident – varies greatly according to its location.

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In East and West Sussex, the pre-determined attendance to a blaze is up to six fire engines and an aerial vehicle, compared with Hampshire which has eight and an aerial vehicle, or Bedfordshire which has just two fire engines and no aerial platforms.

Crewing levels can also vary between four or five firefighters per fire engine. The new research also shows that although there are 125 aerial ladder/platform vehicles in England, only 26 per cent of them (33) are available 24/7 due to a lack of fire crews.

In a letter written to the Prime Minister today (Saturday, July 15) Matt Wrack, general secretary of the FBU and a former firefighter said: “In the aftermath of the terrible tragedy at Grenfell Tower, we are aware that there are greatly differing standards and approaches adopted by different fire and rescue services across the country.

“We had hoped that one immediate response from central government would be to implement or establish an urgent review to ensure that the appropriate resources are available to firefighters attending such incidents in the future...this appears not to have been done, which causes us concern and alarm.”

Mr Wrack praised the London Fire Brigade for amending its planning following Grenfell to ensure any call to a similar fire receives a response of five fire engines and an aerial high reach vehicle.

He added: “These new findings are extremely concerning. In the light of the terrible tragedy at Grenfell Tower, this situation is utterly unacceptable.

“We find it staggering that nothing has been done to address this grossly unjust postcode lottery of resources, and the fact that governments in all parts of the UK appear not to have even considered it is a disgrace.

“They now need to urgently instruct fire services to improve their fire and rescue planning to ensure a full and professional response to such incidents all over the UK.

“Citizens everywhere need to feel safe and confident that those in authority are taking their safety seriously. Anything less is, frankly, obscene.”