Young firefighter’s concerns over future career and public safety

Appliances from Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service.
Appliances from Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service.

One of the county’s young firefighters has expressed fears about proposed cuts to the service, saying he feels his ‘future career has been axed’.

It comes as a consultation into the proposed changes, which runs until February 15, is ongoing as Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service faces up to requirements to save another £500,000 in 2016/17.

The young firefighter, who does not wish to be named, said that if the Government, county council and fire authority keeps cutting the service, there will be no jobs left for the next generation.

“I feel that my future is now destroyed along with anyone else who has aspired to join the fire and rescue service,” he said.

“It feels like heartbreak when you train and work hard to be the best that you can be to join an organisation that is getting rid of their firefighters senselessly.”

Coun Dave Ledger, chairman of Northumberland Fire and Rescue Authority and deputy leader of Northumberland County Council, said: “The proposals have been put forward for a public consultation in order to save £500,000 following central-government cuts and we are fully aware that some people are concerned at the proposals for a number of reasons.

“The Young Firefighters Association provides safe, welcoming environments where members can learn new skills and improve their confidence, which will stand them in good stead for whichever future career path they choose.

“There will still be future opportunities within the fire service, whatever the outcome following this consultation process.”

But the young firefighter added: “I fear for the safety of local residents, including myself, as there will not be enough firefighters to staff the appliances as nothing is being done about open recruitment. If I call 999, will I get a staffed fire engine within the dedicated response time?”

But, as reported by the Gazette last month, Chief Fire Officer Alex Bennett has said the proposed changes will not affect the county having a ‘fit-for-purpose’ service.

“We are not throwing the baby out of the bathwater,” he said. “I have got a legal responsibility to balance my budget, but I still have to protect the community.”

The young firefighter has also written to the county council and fire and rescue service, highlighting a number of concerns.

The main issues he raises are the impact on Alnwick and the surrounding area of the replacement of the second retained fire engine with a smaller appliance; the removal of the retained appliance at West Hartford; the closure of Haydon Bridge’s fire station; and questions over the ability of the smaller appliances to deal with incidents.

He also makes some suggestions of what could be done differently such as better advertising to recruit more retained firefighters; the option of having full voluntary fire stations; using the 4x4 vehicles as fire fogging units instead of the smaller appliances; and cuts to management. He concludes by warning the fire service, county council and government that ‘cuts cost lives’.