Fire service ‘staffing crisis may jeopardise incident responses’

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According to a representative of the union, who did not want to be identified, there are now 20 per cent fewer firefighters compared to 2003 – with numbers having fallen from 75 to 62.

And he has issued a warning that members could ballot for industrial action next month if a dispute over pensions is not rectified.

This follows the revelation that the number of States police officers had also fallen by 20 per cent in the last ten years, from 245 to 190.

The Fire and Rescue Service Association representative has also made a number of other allegations about the service. These include:

  • Each of the four watches (shifts) are at least one firefighter short, with part-time or on-call firefighters being used every day.
  • Around £240,000 has already been spent on overtime this year, which exceeds the service’s annual overtime budget by around £100,000.
  • Despite the service recently launching a recruitment drive, they may not know how many staff they can employ, or when they can be taken on, until March 2019.
  • The Community Fire Safety Department – aimed at fire prevention and staffed by two dedicated officers – has now been abolished leaving operational firefighters to conduct prevention activities.
  • The service has stopped responding to automatically-activating fire alarms during weekday working hours, and only attend if they receive a call from an occupant to confirm that there is a fire.

The union representative also claimed that in 2018, the service had lost its chief fire officer, two other members of senior management, two station officers from technical fire safety, and five firefighters.

‘The number of leavers at present due to low morale and uncertainty moving forward with the new chief executive has led to a large-scale exodus unseen in the history of Jersey Fire and Rescue. This has the potential, if continued, to jeopardise their ability to perform mandatory incident command functions which govern firefighter safety,’ he said.

‘Part-time on-call firefighters are being used on a daily basis even to backfill full-time firefighters on daily shifts to ensure manning is maintained for Island fire cover, more so than in previous years.

‘The service has more difficulty recruiting on-call firefighters than ever before, mainly due to pressures placed on them by their primary employer, thus not allowing them to fulfil their operational commitment to the service.’

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