Edinburgh fire station left with too few firefighters for one engine

FAMILIES are being put at risk because the fire service has too few firefighters to staff all of its engines, a union has warned.

Tuesday, 4th December 2018, 6:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 4th December 2018, 10:50 am

Stations across the Capital have been reduced from two to one engines in recent months, while specialist roles such as water rescue and major crash response have also suffered.

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The Fire Brigades Union said the biggest staffing shortage in a generation came to a head on Saturday when Marionville Fire Station was closed all day by insufficient numbers.

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Marionville was closed all-day Saturday

“Obviously there’s an increased risk to public safety,” said John McKenzie, East of Scotland Secretary for the FBU.

“The current situation is completely unacceptable. Morale on stations is at rock bottom.”

Figures compiled by the FBU show McDonald Road and Sighthill often only had enough firefighters for one of their two appliances for much of August to October. Crewe Toll has been affected also.

On Saturday, long-term sickness meant two firefighters were off work at Marionville meaning the remaining three colleagues had to be redeployed elsewhere, as they were unable to operate the station’s one engine.

Mr McKenzie said it was “unprecedented” for Restalrig and Craigentinny to be without their fire station.

Meanwhile, McDonald Road was down to one of two fire engines while the station’s high ladder was also not staffed - leaving the east of the city shorter still.

“We have members at the station who have been in service for up to nearly thirty years who have simply never seen anything like this before,” said Mr McKenzie. “They are embarrassed at what this service has been reduced to.

“Levels of fire cover are being reduced on a daily basis which inevitably increases the risk to local communities.

“Our members are trained to provide a life saving emergency service. How can emergency fire provision be provided when fire engines are left unstaffed and stations left closed?”

Mr McKenzie said the crisis has left duty officers “dreading” shifts with their “hands tied” and in an impossible situation.

“Firefighters are seeing critical resources yoyo between being available and then unavailable on a day to day, shift by shift basis,” he added.

He pointed to a national shortage with more than 500 fewer firefighters than five years ago and a target number agreed last August of 3,021 never met.

Mr McKenzie said the service is “chronically under resourced” and blamed the strategic leadership team and Scottish Fire and Rescue Service board.

“There is a developing narrative at a strategic level within the service that it is acceptable for fire engines to be unavailable” he added.

Tory councillor for Craigentinny/Duddingston, John McLellan, whose ward includes Marionville said: “It’s extremely concerning that it’s not just undermanned but not manned at all.

“There’s a service there that people would expect to be available should there be an emergency.

“I think the fire service need to give some reassurances about the future of Marionville Fire Station because if we’ve got a fire station, we expect it to be functioning.”

Kenny Rogers, Scottish Fire and Rescue Service’s Local Senior Officer for the Capital, confirmed appliances have been “stood down.”

He said: “We can confirm that one appliance at Marionville Community Fire Station, one appliance at McDonald Road Community Fire Station and one appliance at Sighthill Community Fire Station, were stood down on Saturday, December 1 between 8am and 6pm. A range of circumstances has also impacted on appliance availability in the City of Edinburgh over recent weeks. Our system allows us to flex and bend, mobilising our appliances and personnel from other stations across the country, if required. The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service continues to respond to every emergency call. We are presently looking at a range of options to address this recent impact on appliance availability.”

Mr Rogers said 105 new firefighters complete their recruit training soon, with 13 stationed in the Capital. A further 60 new recruits will begin their training in January.

A Scottish Government spokesman said “spending capacity” of the SFRS has risen by £15.5 million this year but that operational decisions on the allocation of resources are a matter for the SFRS board and chief officer.