Devon and Somerset fire crews take longer to respond to emergencies

Tuesday 22nd February 2022 1:00 pm
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Devon and Somerset fire crews are taking longer to respond to emergencies than they did just over a decade ago, figures show.

The Fire Brigades Union say a national slowing in fire response times is down to "huge levels of cuts" to services across England.

Home Office data shows that the Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service responded to primary fires – the most serious kind – in an average of 10 minutes 11 seconds during the year to September 2021. Including 56 seconds for call handling and six minutes 37 seconds drive-time, that is slower than in the 12 months to September 2020, when the average response time was 10 minutes .

Figures show that the response time had slowed since 2011, when crews attended primary incidents in around 10 minutes. That comes despite a drop in the number of call-outs to primary fires, which fell from 2,584 in 2011 to 1,892 last year.

The Fire Brigades Union say there has been a long-term slowing of response times nationally due to decades of funding cuts resulting in fewer firefighters, fire engines and stations. Andy Dark, assistant general secretary of the FBU, said: ’It is no surprise that response times are increasing – central government cuts are entirely to blame for this reduction in services and our communities deserve better. The Government is playing roulette with our lives and our properties. We are being left for longer as our houses burn.’

Separate figures show that since 2011, the number of full-time equivalent firefighters employed by the service dropped from 375 to 270 last year, a 28% fall. The brigade’s overall staffing levels were down 25% from 706 in September 2011 to 533 in 2021. Staffing levels have dropped significantly nationally with brigades now employing 25% fewer non-managerial firefighters and 22% fewer total staff members than were in role in 2011.

Across England, the average response time for primary incidents – those which have most potential to cause harm to people or properties – is now 37 seconds slower than it was in 2010. Last year, it was six seconds slower than recorded in the year to September 2020.

Fire Minister Lord Greenhalgh said thousands of firefighters had been recruited across the country in 2021 and that fire and rescue authorities would receive around £2.3 billion to support their work. He added: ’Firefighters work tirelessly every day to protect our communities and the government has consistently given them the resources they need to keep people safe. Fire response times can fluctuate annually depending on many factors such as road traffic and weather but have remained relatively stable since March 2015.’

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