UK

Fire Brigades Union Warns 'Postcode' Lottery Determines Ability Of Firefighters To Tackle Blazes Such As Grenfell

'This situation is utterly unacceptable.'

15/07/2017 17:13 BST | Updated 15/07/2017 17:16 BST

The capacity for firefighters to respond quickly and adequately to a tower block blaze is a “postcode lottery”, the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has warned.

The union said that the number of fire engines that should automatically be sent to an incident - also referred to as ‘pre-determined attendance’ (PDA) - “varies greatly according to location”.

This research comes after a BBC investigation revealed that the London Fire Brigade failed to dispatch a high “aerial” ladder immediately to the Grenfell Tower blaze.

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The ability of firefighters to tackle blazes such as Grenfell is a 'postcode lottery', the FBU warns.

At least 80 people were killed in the fire, which engulfed the 24-storey high-rise on June 14.

The FBU said that the PDA in places like Kent, Humberside and Nottinghamshire is just three fire engines and no aerial platforms at all.

Aerial platforms are vehicles with long ladders or platforms to reach fires in high buildings - whereas Hampshire has a PDA of eight fire engines and an aerial vehicle.

The union said that crew levels can also vary between four or five firefighters per fire engine. 

“Very worryingly, the new research shows that although there are 125 aerial ladder/platform vehicles in England, only 26% of them (33) are available 24/7 due to a lack of fire crews,” the union said.

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At least 80 people died in the Grenfell Tower blaze on June 14.

Matt Wrack, general secretary of the FBU, said: “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.”

The FBU has written to Prime Minister Theresa May today to make “sure appropriate resources are available to firefighters” attending such incidents as Grenfell.