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Not enough firefighters to cover during heatwave
6:00am Monday 14th October 2013 in News
ONE in ten fire engines were out of action during the July heatwave because there were not enough staff to keep them on the road, it has emerged.
Essex county councillor Kerry Smith, Ukip’s representative on the Essex Fire Authority, revealed the shocking statistic to the Echo and has accused the body of playing “Russian roulette” with people’s lives.
He says rather than spending almost £2million on solar panels, the cash should instead be spent on recruiting more firefighters in the county.
The authority recently agreed to spend £1.9million on putting solar panels on 31 of the county’s fire stations as a “spend to save” project, but the Echo can reveal, in July, 11 per cent of fire engines were unused because of a lack of staff.
Mr Smith, who represents Westley Heights, in Basildon, said: “This is playing Russian roulette with people’s lives and taxpayers’ money.
“Solar panels don’t save lives – our brave firefighters do.
There should be £2million there to employ the staff we need or keep the money towards next year’s budget.
“The main reason for this lack of manpower is because Essex Fire Authority has not been recruiting enough new firefighters.”
In July, there were 794 fulltime firefighters employed by the service, which has 70 fire engines, five aerial ladder platforms, four rescue tenders and one animal rescue unit.
Staff went on strike last month over a row about pensions and the working age required.
The service claims vehicle availability is down to having a sufficient number of firefighters to drive them, and that number fluctuates on a day-today basis.
The solar panels are expected to be installed on all the main Essex fire stations.
The authority claims the panels will save £190,000 a year.
An Essex County Fire and Rescue Service spokesman said: “This investment will not only reduce the service’s impact on the environment, it will completely pay for itself in under a decade and save an additional £2.8million over the 25-year life of the panels.
“The service has historically had a shortfall of firefighters during the holiday period.”
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