Fire cover: Lives are at risk in Portsmouth high rise blocks, claims union

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  • Firefighters say aerial response ladder is being left behind when needed
  • Lib Dem leader says lives are at risk
  • Tory council leader says warnings are just for political gain
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FIREFIGHTERS say they want a new plan brought in for when they can use their aerial ladder truck in Portsmouth.

A private meeting was held last night between Portsmouth city councillors and firefighters from Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service about concerns over fire brigade cover in the city.

The aftermath of the launderette fire which sparked the argument

The aftermath of the launderette fire which sparked the argument

It comes following a row after an aerial ladder was sent from Southampton to a launderette fire in Albert Road, Southsea last month.

The firefighters and opposition councillors say doing this – while the Southsea truck was sat in their station – breaks a promise made during a consultation on fire cuts, which have now been introduced.

As part of the cuts, crew numbers at Southsea were reduced during the day and night from 20 to 16.

But fire service bosses say that the Southsea ALP wasn’t sent out at first to the launderette because it wasn’t a high-rise incident – and that the Southampton engine was only sent as a back-up measure.

Clearly the assurances we were given have not happened and people’s lives are at risk

Gerald Vernon-Jackson

Lib Dem Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, who organised the meeting, was against the cutbacks and believes people’s lives are at risk.

He said: ‘The assurance we were given was that if the ALP was needed, it would always be deployed from Southsea.

‘Clearly the assurances we were given have not happened and people’s lives are at risk.

‘Portsmouth has a lot of high-rise blocks and those people are in clear danger.’

Mark Chapman, FBU rep at Cosham Fire Station, Gary Jackson, secretary of Hampshire FBU and Nigel McCullen,  chairman of the FBU in Hampshire, at last night's meeting

Mark Chapman, FBU rep at Cosham Fire Station, Gary Jackson, secretary of Hampshire FBU and Nigel McCullen, chairman of the FBU in Hampshire, at last night's meeting

Nigel McCullen, chairman of Hampshire Fire Brigades Union and a firefighter at Southsea fire station, said there have been four incidents when the ALP has not been used because of the problem.

He and colleagues at Southsea have come up with a plan and have told senior officers.

Mr McCullen said most of the time there is a minimum crew of 12 on duty and when an incident does occur, all officers are sent to it. The current rule is three regular appliances attend, with four men in each, leaving the ALP at the station.

He believes two officers could go out in the ALP, opposed to the current rule of four, as there will be enough firefighters there to man the appliance when it gets there.

Mr McCullen said: ‘The crewing could be better and safer for both firefighters and the people of Portsmouth.

‘The way it is crewed is potentially dangerous and risky and we think we have a better way of doing it.’

But Tory council boss, Cllr Donna Jones, who supported the firefighter cuts, said: ‘The ALP ladder in Southampton was not required when it was sent.

‘I have had reassurance that no lives are at risk in Portsmouth by senior fire officers.

‘This is the union and Lib Dems using the recent changes for political gain.’