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THIS WAS FIRST PUBLISHED SOME TIME AGO, I HAVE SINCE RETIRED BUT THE CUTS AND CHANGES STILL GO ON TO THIS DAY

The fate of the fire and rescue service in Great Britain

PART 1 

 

INTRODUCTION

 When I first started this letter I only envisaged writing two or three pages but as you can see it has developed into quite a long essay. Please read it in its entirety. It has taken me several weeks to get it right. The views I express are my own and while I don’t wish to be derogatory, if I upset you with my views then all I ask is that you ask yourself, why?

I have been A fire fighter with the SURREY FIRE AND RESCUE SERVICE, (S.F.&. R.S) for 30 years, as a fire fighter for 14 years, and as a leading fire fighter for the last 16. I joined the service in 1974 when I was 19 years old and I plan to retire in July 2005. I have seen many changes, been through two industrial disputes and I feel now that what is happening to our service does not bode well. Not only for those that deliver the service but also for those that receive the service, the general public. This is causing me to put pen to paper and express those concerns.

Some may find this very unpalatable reading. But I have nothing to lose and no axe to grind and I will be as factual as possible, something has to be said before lives are lost.

 The History Lesson        

 History has shown that politicians have long memories and when a group of people like, say, the miners cause them a great many problems as they did with the Conservatives in the 1970’s, it brought down the Edward Heath government. When next time that group raise their head above the parapet the politicians will be ready for them, and for good or bad for all! that group will suffer the consequences but the politicians will not be seen to lose a second time and will exact their revenge.

We went on strike, quite justly so, for better pay and conditions for fire fighters in the winter of 1977 and after a bitter 9 week dispute the Labour party were forced to sign a contract, giving the service a pay formula and conditions that could not be touched unless both sides saw a need for change and went into new negotiations or by act of parliament. And this was to last till 2002.

1978 was not a happy year for both the government and the country as a whole, seeing severe industrial unrest both in the public and private sectors. All of which culminated in a general election in 1979 and the labour party losing power for 17 years. 

At this point I would like to give a small fact. In 1974 the life expectancy for a fire fighter on retirement was, on average, 5 years. When you bear in mind that most retired early on ill health grounds or at the latest 55, very few saw there 60th birthday. Things have improved slightly but life expectancy is still only 7 to 10 years depending on which part of the country we serve. At the last count 6 fire fighters who joined the job with me in 1974 are now dead.

Present day

In 2002 it was recognised by both our employers and union alike that the pay formula was not working, the fire fighters skill base had grown beyond all recognition since 1977 and pay parity with skill base was such that retention of skilled staff was reaching crisis point in all areas, with London and the south east of the country suffering the most staff shortages etc. Yes, I will here you say, thousands of people apply for the fire service each year, but very few find they reach the standards required both physically and mentally even though some of the physical standards have been reduced over the years.

Something had to be done and so both the union and the employers took the decision to go into negotiations over a new pay formula and conditions of service. So our old pay and conditions were now dead and the fate of our service was in the hands of our employers and the union (small note here for all that do not know: our employers are local government not Parliament).

Little did we realise what was about to happen next.

Early 2002 saw the employers and the unions agree that the skill base and risk levels needed to be rewarded and an interim payment of 16% was agreed subject to government help and agreement, due to the fact that local government could not fund this rise without Parliament’s backing, and funding. This was just, as it turned out, the right time for the Labour party to seek revenge for 1977 and it was not a battle they could afford to lose or all the public services would be motivated to seek proper pay levels, compared to private industry as they did in 1978 and the subsequent 17 year banishment of power for the Labour party.

Prescott gave a flat refusal to the employers and even in June 2002 the alarm bells were not ringing for the union and we did not realise the trap we were all walking into. There was an independent report about the fire service conditions pay and fire cover due to come out which had been commissioned approximately 2 years before. There were interim findings. That is where the original 16% came from because the report had looked at pay parity with skill levels and recommended that fire fighters pay be increased by 40%. Also it was realised there needed to be an increase in fire and rescue cover and increases in spending in many areas.

The Labour party completely ignored this report but realised they needed to make a counter attack and announced they would be commissioning their own “independent” inquiry (at this point I am going to swear as I feel it is grammatically needed). Like bollocks it was going to be independent! With a four month dead line, all, those on the enquiry being appointed by the Labour government, with the leader announcing before the start of the enquiry on public television that the fire fighters were not going to be happy with the out come. Yeah right, this is going to be independent. Even our union knew what a farce it was going to be and took the view that the only course of action was not to participate as there would be no point, but either way the union was on to a looser with the Labour spin doctors getting up and ready to malign and debase the service and the union at every level. The rest is history.

During the long and damaging dispute, control of the media by the Labour party was quite apparent, (in fact only Stalin and Hitler have had better proper gander machines), and in the end it was the deciding factor in its out come, What with the militant union and the greedy uncaring fire fighters, who are a close kin if not in league with terrorists, and many other types of demonising rhetoric, spewing forth from our papers, televisions and politicians.

‘So who lost?’ I may here you ask.

We all have

Plain and simply put, modernisation means CUTS. There are: less fire fighters, less fire appliances, down grading of services in Surrey alone with lots more to come and this is multiplied all over the country. In the past the only people to fight cuts in life saving services are the union and the fire fighters but we now do not have the stomach for the fight because we have lost the belief ourselves and we know this government have all the aces. They care little about your life; it’s all about element of risk. One or two extra fire deaths are acceptable, who is going to notice? The 1947 Fire Services Act protecting your service has been torn up and discarded. They can do what they like.  

Here I make a chilling prediction. The Surrey Fire and Rescue Service are going to lose one or more likely 2 fire fighters in a backdraught in the not to distant future, most likely at night and more than likely in the Haslmere or maybe the Walton area. Here are 2 scenarios. The first being before the cuts pre 2004 the second with what will happen now post 2004.

Scenario #1: Pre 2004

At 0030 hrs due to the happy reveller falling asleep, whilst his chips cook in his safely protected fire detector home in the outskirts of Haslemere, with his wife and 3 kids asleep up stairs, the chip pan reaches ignition temperature and ignites. Within seconds the flames are leaping to the ceiling and a few minutes later Fred is awoken from his deep slumber by the smoke detectors high pitched bleeping. He is immediately panicked by the smoke and hears the baby crying who has also been woken by the smoke detector.

Fred rushes headlong up the smoke filling stairs and crashes through his bedroom door. The twins, both girls, are now awake and frightened. There is a funny unpleasant smell in their room and a haze reflected in the glow of their night-light.

Fred has thrown his confused and frightened wife out of bed. He is shouting at her “Get out! The house is on fire. Get out. Call the fire brigade I’ll get the kids”. She quickly comes to her wits and grasps the cordless phone from beside the bed and rushes down stairs in the now thickening smoke, choking and spluttering. She was always good at texting and, even blinded by the fumes, before she hits the front door and stumbles into the fresh air she has dialled 999.

The first call, to 42 Beachwood Drive, was received by Surrey Fire and Rescue service at 0037hrs. The Fire Control Officer who took the call heard a women coughing and being sick but she did catch the words “fire” and “Haslemere” and immediately the alerter was sounding at Haslemere fire station and a partial address was obtained before the phone went dead. Thankfully the full address is obtained from an automatic system and at 0038 both Haslemere’s full time pump S251 is alerted and mobile at 0039 and the retained pump crew is alerted S252 and mobile at 0044  

Fred bangs on the girls’ door as he passes it but realises he can’t get them and the baby out at the same time. Sara and Sally cry out and Fred shouts at them to stay in their room and not move. The Girls are confused and very frightened and start to cry, but they are good girls and do as their dad says. Meanwhile Fred crashes into the baby’s bedroom, scoops the baby boy out of his cot and heads for the stairs. As he passes the girls room he shouts out “Girls! Stay there I will be back in a second”. He is now terrified and panicked and chocking on the ever thickening black smoke but with super human strength leaps down the stairs in one bound and is through the front door. He rushes up to his wife who is on the phone. He thrusts the baby into her arms sending the phone crashing to the ground. They look at each other, eyes wide, and without having to say a word as both their minds are screaming “THE GIRLS”, Fred turns and rushes back through the front door, back into the toxic smoke.

Alison grabs the phone from the ground and starts screaming as she realises the phone is broken. Mrs smith from next door, who is a light sleeper, has popped her head out of the bedroom window and sees Alison. Realizing Fred and Alison’s house is on fire and the rest of the family must still be inside, she dives back in to the bedroom, runs down stairs and dials 999.

Fred has bounded up the stairs holding his breath but he trips and smashes his head on the little vase table in the corner and falls back momentarily unconscious, coming to at the bottom of the stairs. He has been lucky not to sustain any real injury but his eyes are full of blood and he took a large gulp of smoke at the head of the stairs and stumbles back out of the door way reaching and choking.

Alison is hysterical when she sees her husband. He is black from the smoke and his face is covered in blood “Where are the girls Fred? Where are the girls?” Just at that point, the siren from Haslemere’s whole time fire appliance S251 wails in the distance. Fred comes to and looks at his wife “They’re in their bedroom. The doors shut”. The siren is getting louder all the time. “The firemen will be here in a minute, they will be OK”. Alison drops to the ground sobbing and rocks back and forth with her baby son held tightly in her arms. Lights are on in the surrounding houses; people are looking out of windows and standing in door ways too afraid to move. They all know the family, they are good people. Some realise the girls are not with Alison and Fred and are horrified, glued to the spot, they can all hear the fire engine approaching “Thank God the Fire Brigade were quick. This is awful”, “Poor things”; “I do hope the girls are OK”.

Just at that point S251 turns into Beachwood drive at 0045hrs, coming to a halt outside no 42 and the 5-man crew jump out. Fred runs up to the officer in charge. 

The second call to the S F & R S was received at 0041 and S251 was informed ‘persons reported’ the sub officer immediately puts the sirens on and they stay on till they reach no 42 Beachwood Drive at 0045hrs. On arrival the scene is utter panic with smoke issuing from the front door. A smoky, bloody and panicked faced man runs up to the sub officer and grabs him by the arm but it takes only seconds for the Sub officer to obtain the information needed. The 2 man breathing apparatus crew are dispatched upstairs with a hose reel jet to the middle bed room to rescue the 2 five year old girls Sara and Sally whilst the fifth man kneels down at the front door and pulses the second hose reel down the hall way towards the kitchen. 

Sara has run over to Sally’s bed and they are cuddling each other under the covers. They are good girls and love their Dad unconditionally as only five years olds can and know he will come to their rescue. They have stopped crying but are still very frightened and their eyes are smarting from the smoke. Then they hear a noise and both pop their heads out of the covers. The bedroom door opens and smokes billows into the room. The girls scream at the two monsters, which loom out of the gloom. On hearing the little girls’ wails, the monsters grab one each and head for the door.

 

Sara and Sally are rescued at 0049 hrs, both girls had fainted when grabbed by the BA crew but quickly recovered in the fresh air and, wide eyed, they see the 2 monsters disappearing back into the house. Minutes later another fire engine drew up and 2 more not so scary men don their monster masks and follow the other firemen into the burning building. The fire at no 42 Beachwood Drive was brought under control at 0109 hrs. It takes several hours before the last fire appliance leaves the scene. This time this family were lucky. A SMOKE DETECTOR SAVED THEIR LIVES.

 

Scenario #2: what will happen today

At 0030 hrs due to the happy reveller falling asleep, whilst his chips cook in his safely protected fire detector home in the outskirts of Haslemere, with his wife and 3 kids asleep up stairs, the chip pan reaches ignition temperature and ignites. Within seconds the flames are leaping to the ceiling and a few minutes later Fred is awoken from his deep slumber by the smoke detectors high pitched bleeping. He is immediately panicked by the smoke and hears the baby crying who has also been woken by the smoke detector.

Fred rushes headlong up the smoke filling stairs and crashes through his bedroom door. The twins, both girls, are now awake and frightened. There is a funny unpleasant smell in their room and haze reflected in the glow of their night-light.

Fred has thrown his confused and frightened wife out of bed. He is shouting at her “Get out! The house is on fire. Get out. Call the fire brigade I’ll get the kids”. She quickly comes to her wits and grasps the cordless phone from beside the bed and rushes down stairs in the now thickening smoke, choking and spluttering. She was always good at texting and, even blinded by the fumes, before she hits the front door and stumbles into the fresh air she has dialled 999.

The first call was received, by Surrey Fire and Rescue Service, at 0037hrs. The fire control officer who took the call heard a women coughing and being sick but she did catch the words “fire” and “Haslemere” and immediately the alerter was sounding at Haslemere fire station and a partial address was obtained before the phone went dead. The full address is obtained from an automatic system. It’s Saturday night and Haslemere’s two pump retained units have had a busy week. It’s the height of summer and both pumps have had a busy few days and nights with grass fires etc. But as it has rained heavily during the day it will be a pretty safe bet tonight will be quiet so only 1 retained pump is available for fire calls till 0900hrs in the morning.  Haslemere’s retained alerters were activated at 0038 for the crew to man S251. Sally is an experienced Fire Control Officer and this did not sound like a normal the run of the mill abandon call. She is a local girl and knows the area where the call came from and can’t recall having suspicious calls from there before. In an instant she puts the bells down at Guildford, the nearest whole time unit and turns out S221 just in case, which books mobile at 0040.

Fred bangs on the girls’ door as he passes it but realises he can’t get them and the baby out at the same time. Sara and Sally cry out and Fred shouts at them to stay in their room and not move. The Girls are confused and very frightened and start to cry, but they are good girls and do as their dad says. Meanwhile Fred crashes into the baby’s bedroom, scoops the baby boy out of his cot and heads for the stairs. As he passes the girls room he shouts out “Girls! Stay there I will be back in a second”. He is now terrified and panicked and chocking on the ever thickening black smoke but with super human strength leaps down the stairs in one bound and is through the front door. He rushes up to his wife who is on the phone. He thrusts the baby into her arms sending the phone crashing to the ground. They look at each other, eyes wide, and without having to say a word as both their minds are screaming “THE GIRLS”, Fred turns and rushes back through the front door, back into the toxic smoke.

Chertsey lost their second pump in the cuts and at 0015 had an automatic fire alarm at St Peters Hospital Chertsey so S331 (Chertsey) & S292 (Woking’s second pump) were still in attendance at 0037.

At 0030 S291 (Woking’s first pump) and S222 (Guildford’s second pump) are mobilised to RTC persons trapped. And both are in attendance at 0037.

The second call to 42 Beachwood Drive was received at 0041 and Sally quickly estimates that the fire is ‘persons reported’ she informs S221 and then calls up S251. There is no answer. Sally looks up to one of her fellow Fire Control Operators,

“John?”

“Yes Sally?”

“Can you ring Haslemere and see if they are mobile yet? If they are at station can you tell them it is persons reported.”

“Yes ok Sally, I’m on it.”

Sally then turns out One pump from Godalming retained at 0044 who book mobile at 0050. There are more and more repeat calls coming in with some callers sounding very agitated. She can hear screaming in the back ground so she now informs the duty officer for the Haslemere area of the situation. He immediately books mobile but it won’t be till 0109hrs before his arrival at Number 42 Beachwood Drive.

Alison grabs the phone from the ground and starts screaming as she realises the phone is broken. Mrs smith from next-door, who is a light sleeper, has popped her head out of the bedroom window and sees Alison. She realises Fred and Alison’s house is on fire and the rest of family must still be inside. She dives back in to the bedroom and runs down stairs and dials 999.

Fred has bounded up the stairs holding his breath but he trips and smashes his head on the little vase table in the corner and falls back momentarily unconscious. Coming to at the bottom of the stairs he has been lucky not to sustain any real injury but his eyes are full of blood and he took a large gulp of smoke at the head of the stairs. He stumbles back out of the doorway reaching and choking.

Alison is hysterical when she sees her husband. He is black from the smoke and his face is covered in blood “Where are the girls Fred? Where are the girls?”  “They’re in their bedroom. The door’s shut”. “The firemen will be here in a minute they will be OK”. Alison drops to the ground sobbing and rocks back and forth with her baby son held tightly in her arms. Lights are on in the surrounding houses. People are looking out of windows and standing in door ways too afraid to move. They all know the family, they are good people. Some realise the girls are not with Alison and Fred and are horrified and glued to the spot.

Sara has run over to Sally’s bed and they are cuddling each other under the covers. They are good girls and love their Dad unconditionally as only five years olds can and know he will come to their rescue. They have stopped crying but are still very frightened and their eyes are smarting from the smoke.

Alison looks up at her Husband. He is clenching and unclenching his hands, standing as if rooted to the spot. Just then Alison, almost hesitantly, says, “I broke the phone”. Fred looks down. “What?” “I broke the Phone” “Did you get through to the Fire Brigade?” She starts to Cry, “I don’t know” she weeps.

Fred looks horrified but grits his teeth. He remembers knocking the phone out of her hands when he thrust the baby into her arms they both listen. They can’t hear any sirens. They have been hearing them all week as Haslemere has had a busy week fighting forest fires around the area.

Fred turns, “I am going to get our Girls”.

“O my God Fred”.

With this Fred turns and makes for the front door. This will be the last time Alison was to see her husband. They would not allow her to see the body, it was to badly burnt.

Fred re-enters the house at 0045hrs. He moves slower this time even though it only takes a few seconds to reach the top of the stairs. He is blinded by the acrid smoke and heat, his lungs are burning and he is chocking on the toxic fumes. He becomes completely disorientated and with out realising it, he enters their main bedroom, his feet become entangled with the bedding, which had been dislodged earlier, and trips and falls to the ground. He manages to struggle to his feet but he has taken in far too much smoke and collapses again. Just before he lapses into unconsciousness his last thought was “Please God save my little girls, please God save my little girls”.

The driver of S221 is one of the safest and fastest Guildford has and tonight the appliance was flying. As luck would have it the driver also used to live in Beachwood Drive so he knew exactly were the fire was. At 0056 the mobile phone on S221 rings. Pete the Sub officer picks it up “Hello Control” “Hello Pete”  “Is that you Sally?” “Yes Pete. Look I thought I had better warn you, you are going to be the first pump there. The driver of S251 put his car into a ditch and he has had to run into the station about 3 miles as he had to pop round to his mothers. Any way, we have had loads of calls to this incident and the situation sounds very bad so I have also mobilised Godalming’s second pump. they shouldn’t be far behind you. There are two little girls and a husband trapped in the fire, the situation sounds very bad”.

“Shit! O sorry Sally”.

“No, that’s OK Pete, I was thinking the same thing myself. Look Good Luck and be careful”.

“Ok, thanks Sally”.

Pete turns to his crew and informs them of the situation and what they might need to do on arrival. The driver grips the wheel with momentary fury “Bloody modernization! I’ll give them modernization. I’ll stick it where the sun don’t shine”. He then bends back to the task in hand. He is now driving like a man possessed.

Pete feels a chill run down his back. He is more than unhappy. Instead of having a five man crew he was down to four. Just for a few quid travelling they could have had five. Painshill were riding six tonight as well, sometimes penny pinching can just go to far. But he keeps his thoughts to himself and looks ahead. They will be there soon enough. My God we are going fast.

Its now 0049 and Alison has been standing since her husband had re-entered the house. Clutching the baby in one arm with her free hand over her mouth, she can’t hold it back any longer. She is frantic as she starts screaming “FRED! FRED! O MY GOD FRED!” This is now all to much and the friends and neighbours come running. One takes the crying baby, which enables Alison to move closer to the doorway. Some friends pull her back but she tries to fight them off. She is inconsolable; “We have called the Fire Service dear”. One grumbles, “So did I, ages ago. They are only five minutes down the road. Call them again John, you got your mobile on you” So John, who is now angry and frightened, phones the Surrey Fire and Rescue Service at 0052. His is the tenth repeat call to the fire at 42 Beachwood Drive, meanwhile Alison is still screaming out her husband’s and children’s names.

S221 book in attendance at 42 Beachwood Drive at 0001 they have made very good time from Guildford

The mob fall back and there are murmurings of “About bloody time”. Alison franticly runs forward to the fireman. The two BA men run out the hose reel to the front door. Paul puts the pump in and they check the hose is charged with water. Paul then runs over. He has recognised Alison, as he knew her at school. Pete, is having a little trouble with her, finding out where the rest of the family are, she is so distraught.

“Pete, I know this girl and I know theses houses. They have a closed-in stairway. If they’re upstairs they may have a chance”.

With this Alison calms. She is very close to collapsing

He turns to Alison “Alison, its Paul. Where are they? Where are the kids?”

Alison looks up “Fred, he went to get them. He went in ages ago. He said they were in the bedroom, their door was shut”.

Calmly BUT firmly Pete asks “Which bedroom Alison?”

“The middle one.” With this Pete and Paul look at each other and nod. There’s a chance. The 2 BA men have heard all this and are already donning their breathing apparatus masks, they move to the doorway, Pete grabs the hose reel he turns to the two the fire fighters, as Paul leads Alison away.

“Listen to me you two. If the father is on the stairway, bring him out but don’t search for him, he’ll almost certainly be dead. Get to the middle room. If the door is still shut there may be a chance the girls are still alive”. Pete handed them the hose reel. They both shake their heads “We’ll travel faster without it”. They all look at each other, “I will pulse down the hallway you two get in and out as fast as you can”. The 2 BA men nod and enter at 0106.

Pete kneels down in the doorway with his visors down and pulses a spray of water towards the kitchen, up into the hot smoke. Paul runs back with the 2 BA wearers tallies to set up the BA board and sees some fire appliances and a Officers car all turning into 42 Beachwood Drive.

At 0108 and 58 seconds the kitchen window finally gave way, letting the now fully pyrolized Kitchen breath. The Back Draught sent a ball of flame down the hallway and a pressure wave up the stairs. As it had been a chilly evening because of the rain early that day, the windows up in the main bedroom had just been drawn to but not put on the latch. The pressure wave of the first Back Draught pushed open the two windows letting in fresh air, for nearly 40 minutes. The hot, highly flammable smoke had been filling the whole of the upstairs and at 0109 the main much more powerful Back Draught occurred, killing all inside the house. The top floor windows were all blown out, throwing glass and debris all over the street with balls of flames reaching over 50 feet side ways Thankfully no one else lost their life that night but there were many minor and some major injuries sustained by both general public and Fire Service personnel alike. Some people, mind you, will have mental scares they never will recover from.

Eventually, when the fire was extinguished, five charred bodies were found. The two Fire Fighters, each still clutching the bodies of 5-year-old Sara and Sally and Fred their Father. IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT SMOKE DETECORS. LOOK AT THE BIG PICTURE.

All of the people in these two stories are made up from my own imagination and as far as I know there is no 42 Beachwood Drive in Haslemere, and this incident has never occurred. But every thing else is as close to the facts as it can be and drawn from my experience as a Fire Fighter of over 30 years.

Any alarm system is only as good as the back up systems in place ready to answer or cope with the emergency.

There is such a thing in law as a duty of care and the 1947 Fire Services Act made sure a duty of care had to be adhered to by law. To change fire cover, remove fire appliances or to down grade service meant consultation and justification regardless of costs. It also meant people could protest and stop down grading. But the Labour party saw this as a nuisance so regardless of duty of care scraped the 1947 fire services act. This left all at the mercy of vengeful politicians pressurising our employers and Fire Service Management to make swathing cuts in all the Fire and Rescue services all over the country. We are being steam-rollered into a second rate service placing all in peril. The buzzwords are risk management; want to know what that is? They look at an areas fire deaths and if there is deemed to be low risk then a down grade in service is required and once you lose your fire engine it isn’t coming back.

It was said that to fund our full pay claim and to keep the high level of service we all enjoyed before 2004, meant every council tax payer paying an extra 1penny per week in their council tax. Were we given a choice? No of course not. It wasn’t about the money it was about vengeance. To scrap such an important bit of legislation without first proposing a better replacement was down right irresponsible, if not criminal. Yes, it was not perfect and did not reflect the amount of life saving work carried out at road accidents, or the advances in fire fighting technology. And it would have meant an all-party agreement, a good 5 years work of study and consultation before it was ready. Although some of the groundwork had already been done on the first independent report on the fire service. No, not good enough for this Labour government. Their houses have not burnt down; their conference hotel has not been blown up. They have not had to be cut out of either of their two Jags after a road accident. Sorry, I am ranting now but I think you get my point.

In health and safety there is such a thing as safe practice. Is it safe practice to have 4 fire fighters instead of 5 on a fire appliance? No it’s not. Is it safe practice only sending one fire appliance to any automatic fire alarm, property fire call or road accident? No it’s not. Is it safe practice not to send any appliance to automatic fire alarms unless it’s a confirmed fire or a high life risk e.g. a hospital? No it’s not. Delayed response or minimum attendance is bad practice and inviting potential disaster. The only thing that will change what is happening now will be the losing of life. The question is: How many lives will be lost before then?

Everything costs money. A high quality service, respected and recognised as one of the best all over the world, costs money. Leaving properties to burn to the ground costs money. Fire insurance costs money. Replacing all your worldly goods after fire costs money. Stopping a small fire in its early stages costs money. Saving lives costs money. Cutting people out of cars costs money. Rescuing people from disasters all costs money. Pay peanuts get monkeys. Buy cheap and you get second-rate goods. Leave your services in the hands of irresponsible politicians and it will disappear until it costs more not to do something than to react.

Suggested Solutions

First, a complete and comprehensive review of the service needs to be undertaken involving all parties. A strategy for the whole country needs to be worked out. Big long-term savings and a better emergency cover could be obtained. We all know that, if government and all partys made the commitment and investment.

Smoke detectors are not the only answer. Incorporate domestic sprinkler systems into the equation and now we are able to spread emergency cover over a wider area. The system only requires plastic piping from your water tank going to 1 or 2 sprinkler heads in each room. They are cheap to purchase and install, require little or no maintenance, are not reliant on electricity mains or battery and as long as you have water in your water tank, you have a fire suppression system for life. And it will only cost between £1000 to £1500 for the average, 3-bed family home. They are only suppression systems but have proved in the United States that they will put out most domestic fires. Fire fighting appliances can cover larger areas where whole towns have adopted the system, but it does mean an initial investment. Long-term, however, insurance cover will be cheaper, less fire damage and along with smoke detectors more lives will be saved even if fire cover is reduced.

What can we do?

Well, the pen is mightier than the sword. On the first page you will see all the people and organisations I have sent this essay to. Please feel free to copy this report and send it to anyone you think needs to see it and if you can put a note in from yourself with why they might need to read it, then all the better.

Also if you fell like myself, even if you don’t agree with some of the things I have said, please put pen to paper and send a short or long note to all the people I have sent this essay to. One brick in a pond only makes a ripple a whole stack makes a large wave, tip lorry loads in and the banks flood. Some thing may then get done. My address care of Chertsey fire station is also provided I would love to get some feedback so if you could send me a copy of your response as well I would appreciate it.

 

Lastly I would like to say on a personal note, I am proud of what I have achieved in my years in the service and I know that I have been involved with the saving of hundreds of lives as team with my fellow fire fighters at fires and road accidents etc. I am proud of my fellow colleges their commitment, courage and sacrifices they have all made in the pursuit of their duties. And lastly I am proud of the service and despite the last two years would I do it all over again? Yes I would.

 

Thank you for you time to read this AND IF YOU WANT TO RESPOND THEN PRINT THIS OFF SEND IT TO YOUR MP AND YOU LOCAL COUNSELLOR OR ANY ONE ELSE YOU FEEL NEEDS TO READ IT BECAUSE EVEN IF YOU DON'T LIVE IN SURREY YOUR FIRE SERVICE IS BEING CUT