Fire change could bring opportunity

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With reference to the article by Sam Cooper, ‘Strike plan putting lives at risk’ (Express August 8), I seem to remember something like this happening in 1938 when an impending war saw the emergence of the Auxiliary Fire Service.

These were volunteers in reserved occupations trained in firefighting techniques. We also had retained firemen who did not receive the same level of training as their full-time colleagues because their employment commitments would have made this impractical. Their training was once a week and fireground duties dependent on their experience. So with weekly training and subsequent experience gained became a very capable force and an asset on the fireground.

There are those who long to be firefighters and would have made good ones but may well have missed out due to percentages law. They may now get their chance and may prove good enough to re-apply when further vacancies occur due to retirements. There are also retired firefighters who may well be fit enough to carry out the task they did until enforced retirement at the age of 55 or voluntary after 30 years service who may actually miss the job and relish the chance to have another go and show they are not over the hill yet.

Practical firefighting can only take up a small amount of firefighters’ duties, statistics prove this, I have known watches go two tours on some stations without a call.

David Williams of the Fire Brigades Union says ‘we are chucking people with three weeks training into dangerous scenarious’, should that not be ‘they are’ – meaning management – it is a management initiative after all.

The Fire Services Act although reading much more complicated now, used to refer to the provision by the Fire Authority of a fire brigade for its area, but does not say how it should be done. It also casts responsiblity for efficient training, but again not how much or how deep it goes. It certainly gives plenty of scope for various interpretations, but are they the right ones?

Trevor Wainwright

Retired firefighter

Lower Oxford Street

Castleford