Shift changes at West Yorkshire fire stations ‘pose a risk to lives’

Lives could be put at risk under plans to change firefighters’ shift patterns at Normanton, Castleford and South Kirkby fire stations, according the Fire Brigades Union (FBU).

West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service (WYFRS) has opened a consultation into changes that would mean the three fire stations would be staffed between 8am and 5pm.

Currently firefighters work from 8am to 7pm at the stations with standby hours in the night.

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The new proposals would mean the station staffed from 8am to 5pm with firefighters allowed to go home if it is within five minutes of the station.

David Williams, the FBU’s regional secretary for Yorkshire and the Humber, said the extra time could be the difference between life and death.

He said: “Without a shadow of a doubt the changes would mean deaths. Fire growth experiments show that a normal living room can be completely alight in six minutes so you need an immediate response.

“You could end up being 12, 13 or 14 minutes late somewhere like Hemsworth or South Elmsall. Our members are pragmatic and they know their job is to save people’s lives.

“You can’t delay with a house fire, you just can’t.”

But WYFRS defended the proposals.

Assistant chief fire officer Nick Smith said: “The day crewed system which we are proposing to introduce is a well-established, long standing duty system in place across the country, and we currently operate it at six fire stations across West Yorkshire. We feel this duty system provides a level of response which is appropriate to the risk of fire facing these communities. We understand the speed of response is important in any fire and would like to reassure people that response times will still be within our expected standards for the county.”