23 March 2016
The Fire Brigades Union has said the outcome of a fatal fire in Merseyside ‘could have been different’ if a local fire station had not been closed.
An elderly couple from the Wirral were tragically killed in the blaze, which broke out at their home, as fire crews missed their target response time due to five fire engines in the area attending a warehouse fire.
A fire engine attended the house fire from Upton fire station but remained without any backup for more than 10 minutes until a second engine arrived.
The station at West Kirby, which was located nearest to where the blaze broke out, closed last year as Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service attempts to axe £11m from its budget by 2019-20.
The FBU said that budget cuts to Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service has seen its number of fire engines available to respond to emergencies cut from 42 to just 28.
Mark Rowe, Merseyside FBU brigade secretary, said: “This is an absolute tragedy for everyone involved. Our thoughts are with the family and friends of the couple and with the firefighters who attended the scene.
“Tragically, this incident highlights how the reckless Tory-led cuts have decimated our fire service and put our communities at greater risk. Fire cover in the Wirral has been rendered threadbare because of the cuts.
“As all the available fire engines were busy dealing with one fire this meant that fire engines had to be called from much further away. It means if we have two serious incidents at the same time it’s pot luck who gets the speedy and lifesaving response.
“Merseyside has suffered severe budget cuts, more than any other fire service, and fire deaths are now at a 10 year high as a result.
“The government needs to get a handle on the atrocious budget cuts they’ve forced fire services to make. If West Kirby fire station had remained open we could be looking at a different outcome today.”
A Merseyside Fire and rescue spokesperson said: ”The first appliance in attendance at the house fire in West Kirby on Monday 21st March which tragically led to the loss of two lives was from Upton Fire station, which responded from the station in 8 minutes and 14 seconds which is within the Authority response standard.
“The second appliance to attend was from Kensington, which was mobilised as it was returning from a fire in Birkenhead.
“The impact of budget cuts to date has reduced the number of appliances available across Merseyside and the Chief Fire Officer, Dan Stephens, and the Merseyside Fire & Rescue Authority have made it very clear that this will have an impact on response times, in particular for second and subsequent appliances.
“The Authority would like to express its heartfelt condolences to the families of the deceased.”