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FBU: NE couldn't properly deal with another Grenfell

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The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) in the North East claims fire-fighters here wouldn't be able to properly respond to a disaster like Grenfell - because of a lack of resources.

It says lives could be at risk across Tyneside & Wearside - areas with the highest concentration of tower blocks.

The FBU says a reduction in front-line staff has left specialist high-rise engines without permanent crews.

An abandoned tower block used for fire training. Credit: ITV News Tyne Tees

This abandoned tower block is being used for training by fire-fighters.

But it's exactly the kind of high rise the FBU insists would be at greater risk because of cuts to resources.

It claims there aren't enough fire-fighters to permanently man the specialist engines needed for high-rise emergencies.

That means crews have to swap vehicles - which wastes precious time - especially if they're already far from base on another call.

The FBU says Tyne & Wear Fire Service has lost 155 front-line fire-fighters since 2010.

It blames that reduction solely on government budget cuts.

It says after the death of at least 80 people in the Grenfell tower fire, this is a frustrating - and disappointing - situation.

Ultimately the effect is you could potentially lose life - the life of the public you're trying to keep safe and the lives of fire-fighters as well.

It would put everybody at risk. This has all benn highlighted by Grenfell so, indeed, if there was a Grenfell-type incident within Tyne & Wear that would cause real issues because we're very tight in terms of resources now, because of the cuts.

– Russ King, Fire Brigades Union, North East

Decisions on when to deploy an aerial platform are based upon our extensive intelligence of the high-rise buildings in our area and the high levels of fire safety compliance demonstrated by local housing providers.

However, should we have information that an aerial platform is required, any of our 3 aerial platforms can be requested at any time by the officer in charge.

Since 2009, none of our aerial platforms have been required for any fires within a high rise building. In addition, we keep our response levels under continual review to ensure our community continues to receive the service they need in an emergency.

– Tyne & Wear Fire & Rescue response

The government maintains that safety - and a well funded fire service - is a priority, despite necessary reforms.

The findings by the FBU have been sent to the national HQ in London for further scrutiny.