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Essex Fire Service staffing crisis revealed by Freedom of Information request


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Essex fire service moves thousands of firefighters

The BBC has revealed that the Essex County Fire and Rescue Service (ECFRS) is facing a staffing crisis, as reported by the Fire Brigades Union (FBU).

A Freedom of Information request found that the service moved firefighters from their usual bases to other areas in the county on 2,570 occasions in 2023.

Crews are frequently required to travel across the county, leaving smaller communities without adequate cover.

There were 304 fire engines moved in August, 301 in October, and 278 in December.

Impact of cuts on firefighter jobs

Riccardo la Torre, FBU national officer, said: “Essex County Fire and Rescue Service is at crisis point after a decade of brutal cuts.

“Fire and rescue services shouldn’t have to move fire engines and firefighters around vast distances while scrambling to provide adequate protection for the public.”

La Torre said that over the last decade of austerity, one in five firefighter jobs have been cut and that Essex has lost over 200 firefighters since 2010.

La Torre added: “The quilt is simply too small for the bed. Shifting it around just leaves other areas without cover.

“Under-resourcing adds huge pressure to the work of firefighters, who are often forced to push themselves beyond reasonable limits to keep the public safe.

“Crews are left exhausted or without adequate facilities when constantly moved around.”

Reliance on overtime and climate crisis impacts

The HM Inspectorate has stated that Essex FRS is “heavily reliant” on overtime.

This approach is seen as unsustainable and dangerous.

In recent years, the impact of the climate crisis has been felt more acutely, with the heatwave and wildfires of 2022 resulting in some of the busiest days for fire services since World War II.

Essex reported one of the busiest 24-hour periods in its history as a service during this time.

La Torre emphasised: “Instead of spending on trying to plug the gaps in a failing model, fire and rescue services should be investing in their workforces and calling for a reversal of the 30% cut to central government funding.”

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