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Firefighters lobby MPs over rising death toll on duty

PUBLISHED: 16:54 12 November 2008 | UPDATED: 13:46 05 October 2010

HUNDREDS of firefighters from all over Britain lobbied Parliament today (Wed) demanding action to stem rising numbers of deaths in the fire and rescue services. The lobby at Westminster came after a Fire Brigades Union report showing deaths increasing at an alarming rate, with 13 firefighters having lost their lives in the last five years. The report follows accusations this week from the father of a firefighter killed in London’s East End four years ago that the fire brigade committed a catalogue of errors’

Mike Brooke

HUNDREDS of firefighters from all over Britain lobbied Parliament today (Wednesday) demanding action to stem the rising numbers of deaths in the fire and rescue services.

The lobby at Westminster came after a Fire Brigades Union’s report showing deaths were increasing at an alarming rate, with 13 firefighters having lost their lives in the last five years, compared to none the previous five years.

Eight died on duty last year alone, the worst year for 22 years.

The report follows accusations this week from the father of a firefighter killed at Bethnal Green in London’s East End four years ago that the fire brigade committed a catalogue of errors.’

Billy Faust and his crewmate Adam Meere, both stationed at Whitechapel, died fighting a blaze in a shop and dwellings in Bethnal Green Road on July 20, 2004.

Billy’s father, speaking for the first time since the tragedy, said his son “might be alive today” if the fire service paid greater attention to training and safety of firefighters.

“It became clear at the inquest that basic errors were made,” said Billy’s father David Faust.

“These errors lead directly to them being left without water while trying to extinguish a fire in the shop basement.

“There were critical errors contributing to the deaths of two young, professional, dedicated firefighters.

“I am absolutely clear that the catalogue of errors was the result of systemic failures of the Fire Service to train firefighters adequately.”

He points out that the Health & Safety Executive’s report into their deaths is still not completed, four-and-a-half years after “the tragic fire which has devastated our two families.”

Mr Faust is calling on the HSE to make the Fire Service improve training and end the practice of diverting emergency crews off front line’ operations to take on fire safety promotions.

He added: “The practice of forcing firefighters to meet unrealistic targets for carrying out home safety’ checks and fitting smoke alarms means there isn’t enough time left to train for the dangerous job that the public expects.”

The union’s General Secretary Matt Wrack told today’s lobby of Parliament that efforts to educate the public about avoiding fires means the Government thinks this allows getting away with a smaller fire service.

He insisted: “Public education is no substitute for a properly-trained fire and rescue service with proper resources.”

Training is insufficient, the union says, without enough realistic hot fire’ or specialist training on breathing apparatus and building construction.


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