FBU balloons on a demonstration

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has said that the fire service is so overstretched it was unable to respond to emergency calls during Storm Babet. The trade union has now called for urgent investment to ensure the “dangerously overstretched” service is prepared for flooding in the future.

Storm Babet brought severe weather and heavy rainfall to areas across the UK, leading to life-threatening flooding across widespread areas of Scotland and England. Firefighters led critical rescue operations and safely evacuated homes.

In severely impacted areas of Nottinghamshire, the fire service did not have enough resources to respond to all emergency calls. The service was unable to respond to 72 incidents on 20 October, the height of the flooding, due to lack of resources.

Since 2010, one in five firefighter jobs have been cut across the UK.

There is currently a legal duty for fire and rescue services to respond to major floods in Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales – but not in England. The Fire Brigades Union is demanding that England get a statutory duty, with funding to match.

The union is set to unveil a ‘Firefighters’ Manifesto’ setting out a vision for the future of the service.

Matt Wrack, Fire Brigades Union general secretary, said:

“Firefighters and control staff have been working round the clock to respond to the extreme weather and flooding caused by Storm Babet.

“The climate crisis means that extreme weather events are on the rise, but the Westminster government still refuses to adequately fund the fire service for flood response.

“England is the only country in the UK without a clear statutory duty for fire and rescue services to plan and respond to floods.

“More than a decade of cuts has left the fire service dangerously overstretched on a daily basis. It is pushed beyond limits during emergencies like these.

“Storm Babet has exposed the urgent need to rebuild a properly funded and joined up service.”

Vince Lane, a Watch Manager in Nottinghamshire said:

“My team worked tirelessly to rescue people in extremely challenging circumstances. The flooding we’ve responded to has been some of the most severe I’ve seen in my career as a firefighter. During one 15 hour shift, we travelled around the whole county, to streets where the water was as high as the car roofs. We were out constantly rescuing families, elderly people, children, and pets in potentially life-threatening situations.

“These difficult rescues require highly trained, skilled firefighters, and I’m proud of every firefighter on my team. Our service was definitely stretched to the max. Everyone has worked relentlessly, stepping up because of their commitment to serving their community.”

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Image credit: Socialist Appeal – Creative Commons