1. ITV Report

Union slams new "rapid response" fire vehicles

Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service's new vehicle and the kit it carries Credit: Cumbria County Council

Union bosses fear the replacement of fire engines with smaller "rapid response" vehicles in Cumbria is a risk to public safety.

The county's Fire and Rescue Service is introducing the new Toyota Hilux off-road vehicles at Staveley and Arnside fire stations from the start of April for a six-month trial.

The fire service insists the move will enhance its capabilities as the new vehicles are more agile and better suited to operating in rural areas than traditional fire engines.

But the Fire Brigades' Union (FBU) says the plans will downgrade stations and reduce firefighter numbers.

Cumbria's FBU Brigade Secretary Ed Burrows wrote to Cumbria County Council outlining his concerns.

He said: "We believe without the austerity we are facing, this would never have come to the table.

"Reduced crews, equipment and water will lead to firefighter and public safety being put at risk.

"No one can predict a serious fire, the public deserves the right resources with adequate firefighters to deal with the incident efficiently and effectively."

Cumbria Fire Service says the new vehicles will only replace fire engines at Staveley and Arnside permanently if the trial proves successful.

"New technology and procedures allow these vehicles to be crewed by fewer staff than a standard fire engine and will increase the availability of our resources in areas of relatively low risk or where there is another standard fire appliance at a fire station close by.

“They are equipped to be able to respond to, and deal with small incidents on their own and can also attend more serious incidents, such as house fires and road traffic collisions, alongside standard fire engines, and other resources.

“The obvious benefit the RRVs have are that they are far more flexible and agile than full sized appliances. They are all-terrain and given some of the challenges we have in rural areas and with severe weather events that can make areas hard to reach, these vehicles will be invaluable in providing immediate intervention to saves lives and prevent escalation of incidents.”

– Steve Healey, Cumbria's Chief Fire Officer