SOUTHAMPTON lives could be at risk due to a shortfall in firefighters, warn union bosses.

More firefighters are needed at Southampton and Hampshire stations, says the Fire Brigades Union (FBU).

Hightown Fire Station alone took one of its two trucks off the road more than 80 times in less than four months.

New Forest Post:

According to FBU rep for the station, Richard Brown it is because there are not enough firefighters to crew the engines.

He says the incidents since August included car crashes, house fires and call outs to high-rise blocks of flats.

Having just one truck available at a time reportedly results in longer wait times, which poses a greater risk to both residents and firefighters. At the “absolute minimum” an engine can be crewed by four firefighters, however ideally it should be six, the union says.

Hightown Fire Station currently has 40 firefighters working on a shift basis with the FBU pleading for four more.

New Forest Post:

The trade union would like to see Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service (HFRS) recruit at least 198 new firefighters across the county with four more at Hightown.

Richard said: “They have almost set the fire station up to fail.

“More firefighters would help to resolve incidents in a more timely and effective manner reducing property damage and ultimately maximising the potential to save lives.

Mr Brown added: “This has left the public without the correct number of trucks within Southampton to respond immediately to certain call types such as high-rise fires.

“The service is very short-staffed currently and was making up for these shortfalls with overtime shifts, they have now decided that there is a too greater financial cost to this and that it is better to take trucks off the run instead of paying the overtime.”

New Forest Post:

The Fund The Frontline campaign is calling for immediate funding for another 5,000 firefighters across the UK.

According to HFRS, it received around 1,300 firefighter job applications in 2020 and hopes to recruit in the New Year.

It also said there are no issues with response times in Southampton.

A spokesperson said: “The service considers several options to manage crewing shortfalls. When managing short notice absence, we seek to maximise the availability across Hampshire as a whole.

“The safety of our crews is paramount to us and we ensure they are suitably trained and equipped for any occasion. We have sufficient resources to respond to incidents across the county.”

New Forest Post:

As a former chair of Hampshire Fire and Rescue Authority, MP for Southampton, Itchen, Royston Smith added: “Crewing is an operational issue. Fire call outs are down by around a half in the last ten years thanks in part to smoke detectors and sprinkler systems. New technology means pumps can sometimes operate with fewer firefighters. However, pumps and crew off the run are of concern but the HFR authority can generate additional funds from council tax if they wish.”