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Fire Safety is a ‘Postcode Lottery’

17th July 2017

Fire Safety is a ‘Postcode Lottery’

Cut to the bone, Britain’s firefighting service is short-handed and in crisis. A number of at-risk buildings grows in wake of Grenfell

By Steve Sweeney and Will Stone
Morning Star July 15-16 2017-07-17

Tower blocks face a postcode lottery in firefighters’ ability to respond to emergencies, according to alarming new research published yesterday.
The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) study found that differing levels of fire service resources across the country have been damaging the ability to tackle blazes.
Bedfordshire has just two fire engines covering 664,000 people and no vehicles with long ladders or platforms to reach high-rise buildings.
In contrast Hampshire has eight fire engines and a machine — known as an aerial vehicle — to reach tall buildings.

Crew levels also vary between four or five firefighters per engine, the study shows.

Worryingly, although there are 125 aerial vehicles in England, just 33 are available 24/7 due to a lack of fire crew.

FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said: “These new findings are extremely concerning. In the light of the terrible tragedy at Grenfell Tower this situation is utterly unacceptable.

“We find it staggering that nothing has been done to address this grossly unjust postcode lottery of resources, and the fact that governments in all parts of Britain appear not to have even considered it is a disgrace.

“They now need to urgently instruct fire services to improve their fire and rescue planning to ensure a full and professional response to such incidents all over Britain.

“Citizens everywhere need to feel safe and confident that those in authority are taking their safety seriously. Anything less is, frankly, obscene.”
Mr Wrack has written to Prime Minister Theresa May today expressing his “concern and alarm” that the government has yet to implement a review into resources available to firefighters.

He also praised the London Fire Brigade for amending its planning following Grenfell to ensure any call to a similar fire receives a response of five engines and an aerial vehicle.

The research comes as Grenfell Tower survivors led a silent procession around the perimeter of the gutted tower block yesterday to honour the dead exactly a month on from the tragedy.

The commemoration led a grieving community on the march organised by Grenfell United, a collective created by those who escaped the tower block.
Hundreds also attended the funeral of Ali Jafari, one of the 80 people who have been confirmed dead following the blaze in the west London tower block four weeks ago.

Mr Jafari was separated from his family when he got out of the lift on the 10th floor as he was overcome by smoke.

It has been a difficult week for the west London community, marked by a number of vigils and fraught meetings with police and the authorities.

A map produced to mark a month since the disaster shows the enormous gulf between rich and poor neighbourhoods within the borough of Kensington and Chelsea.

Those areas that played a key role in the aftermath of the tragedy, including a site for the proposed rehousing of survivors, are located in some of the poorest parts of England.

Grenfell Tower is in one of the most deprived 10 per cent of areas in England.

And St Clement Church and the Clement James Centre which have been central hubs for the community following the fire are both in an area ranked among the 20 per cent most deprived.

By contrast Kensington Town Hall, where the council has faced angry protests for failing the community following the disaster, sits in one of the most affluent parts of the country.

Statistics show a deeply divided community with its average salary of £123,000, the highest in Britain, masking serious levels of poverty.
With a median wage of £32,700, the authority has the largest gap between these averages in the country.

Meanwhile the government has been urged to end its “fatal obsession with deregulation” by peers.

This article originally appeared in the ‘Morning Star’
In addition to being General Secretary of the FBU Matt Wrack is Chair of the LRC.

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