UK

Fire Brigades Union urges safety talks

Firefighters tackle a blaze during riots in London in 2011 Image copyright Getty Images

The deaths of some firefighters in the UK since 2004 "could and should have been prevented", a report has said.

The report - commissioned by the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) - looked into 14 deaths of firefighters in the last 10 years and warned "good practice" had sometimes been ignored.

"Unnecessary deaths happened in avoidable circumstances," it added.

FBU general secretary Matt Wrack called for urgent talks and said the report should "focus minds" on fire safety.

In England, between 1993/94 and 2003/04, there were six deaths of firefighters at fires.

During the next 10 years - between 2004/05 and 2013/14 - 13 firefighters died across the UK along with one fire technician.

The report assessed all the deaths during that time, including fatal fires in Bethnal Green, London, in 2004; at Harrow Court, in Hertfordshire, in 2005; and at Marlie Farm, in East Sussex, in 2006.

Risk assessment

The report, carried out by Professor Andrew Watterson of the University of Stirling, said unnecessary risks were sometimes taken to save property.

"Risk assessment and risk management failed in some way and in some form in all the fatalities" he added.

He said "lessons were not learnt that should have been".

Reducing fire budgets and the number of firefighters "could lead to more deaths of both members of the public and firefighters", he added.

Image copyright PA

The report called for the role of central and senior local government and brigade managers in firefighter fatalities to be addressed.

It also provided a series of recommendations to address firefighter safety and recommended action to improve risk assessment and training.

Mr Wrack called for urgent talks with stakeholders, including the government and local councils.

He said the FBU recognised its members worked in a dangerous environment, but said: "Firefighters should expect to be able to go home to their families after their day's work. They do not go to work to die."

He added: "We assess the risks and take carefully planned action to rescue people, to deal with incidents and to make communities safe.

"Our members have the right to demand the best possible procedures, training, equipment and resources to enable us to do our job safely, effectively and professionally.

"That is not too much to ask."

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