Millwall fire spread ‘out of control’ during firefighters strike
PUBLISHED: 16:48 27 October 2010
A house fire in Milwall spread out of control because of inadequate cover during a firefighter’s strike according to union members who attended the scene.
Four Fire Brigades Union (FBU) members, who were on an eight-hour strike. spotted a fire at a block of flats in Millennium Drive on Saturday while driving in the area.
The FBU is in an ongoing contract dispute with the London Fire Brigade (LFB) over changes to shift patterns.
Once at the scene, one member said ‘contingency’ firefighters from AssetCo, a private company contracted by the LFB to provide cover, took 15 minutes to arrive and then broke a pump on one of their engines when trying to get water out of it.
Chris Boag, the FBU’s Tower Hamlets secretary said: “What could have been contained spread out of control.
“They also struggled to get water out of two of their engines.”
The fire started in a second-floor flat and three engines, of 27 taken by the LFB to provide cover during the strike, were called to the emergency at 3.15pm.
Mr Boag said police officers broke into the flat and evacuated 12 people from the whole building before AssetCo arrived.
He also said the four FBU members entered the stairwell of the block of flats and the second-floor flat without protective equipment, after police officers said they didn’t know if everyone was out of the building.
The LFB said the fire caused 90 per cent damage to the flat’s lounge and smoke damage to the rest of the building and it was extinguished by 5.15pm.
They were unaware of any of the firefighters’ equipment breaking down at the scene.
A LFB spokesman said: “The service provided by the contractor is not intended to replicate or replace the Brigade’s operational cover arrangements and a reduced level of firefighting services is provided.”
A further eight-hour strike is planned for November 1 and a 47-hour strike is planned for November 5 over plans to ‘standardise’ day and night shifts to 12 hours each.