In a week when Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service prepares for a remembrance service to mark the anniversary of the death of four of its firefighters, a new report has revealed that many firefighters still have little faith in the training they receive.
Their concerns were voiced in a poll – published as Ashley Stephens, aged 20, Darren Yates-Badley, aged 24, John Averis, aged 27, and 44-year-old Ian Reid, died battling a huge inferno at a vegetable packing plant in Atherstone-on-Stour on November 2 last year.
In January, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) issued the fire service with an improvement notice after an investigation found the officers were not given enough information before attending the scene.
According to the research conducted by the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) in August, firemen and women in the region have painted an “alarming” picture of discontent over safety levels.
They have also criticised the Government over funding for the service.
Of 1,969 members polled, including 154 in the West Midlands, many felt the Government did not value them enough.
They added the Government’s plans to close 46 emergency fire control rooms in England – replacing them with eight ones for the whole country – would make fire and rescue services respond less well to incidents.
Asked what were the four best ways of spending money on improving the fire and rescue service, almost nine out of 10 said more training.
Chris Downes, West Midlands regional secretary of the FBU, said: “This is the authentic voice of the men and women who save lives every day, and it is telling the Government, not just to change course, but to change its whole approach.
“They want resources to go into frontline personnel, training and equipment to do the job, which are being cut – not into extravagant and untried mammoth computer systems and the army of consultants required to explain why they do not work properly.”
Newly-appointed Fire Minister Sadiq Khan responded to the poll by saying the new control rooms were necessary.
He added: “We have provided £400 million investment for new fire stations, equipment and training facilities, as well as £15 million in the Fire Service College to provide state of the art training.
“We also invest in fire safety measures such as £25 million for free smoke alarms and home fire safety checks, which are one of the reasons that fire deaths are now at an all-time low and firefighter deaths remain very low.”
The memorial service for the firemen will be at the Parish Church of All Saints, Leamington, on Sunday at 7pm.