Hampshire fire service denies claims Gosport was left with ‘no firefighters’ due to Omicron

THE FIRE service has denied claims that a station was ‘left with no firefighters’ for one night over Christmas due to Omicron.

Wednesday, 5th January 2022, 11:57 am

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) said Gosport Fire Station had to see drafted-in cover from another station last Tuesday after being decimated by Covid absences.

According to the union, there were no rostered firefighters available in Gosport for the night shift on December 28.

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Gosport Fire Station. Picture: Google Maps

But the fire service says that although firefighters were brought in from other stations, Gosport was fully crewed and Covid was not the reason for the absences. It says crews were moved around maintain cover as normal.

Area manager Kevin Evenett, assistant director of operations for Hampshire and Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service, said: ‘Gosport Fire Station was fully crewed on December 28. Staff absences unrelated to Covid-19 were managed in line with our contingency plans and personnel were moved around to maintain cover.

‘Like all emergency services, we have robust contingency plans in place to cover staff absences and keep those plans under review to make sure we can continue to respond when needed. This includes moving firefighters and fire engines around when necessary to maintain cover.

‘All colleagues have been reminded about the importance of protecting themselves and others from Covid-19 and this includes wearing face masks, practicing social distancing where possible, using lateral flow tests, and isolating when necessary.’

FBU claims that Hampshire and Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service had around 40 people self-isolating on that date. The fire service said that on January 3 there were 64 firefighters off with Covid or self-isolating, which is 4.4 per cent of the workforce.

Mark Chapman, regional secretary for Region 12 of the Fire Brigades Union, said: ‘The service is at an absolutely threadbare level of cover. We even had one fire station essentially left without any firefighters, having to borrow firefighters from another station.

‘As Omicron takes grip across the country that’s something we’ll continue to see in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight and more widely.

‘That’s because the government has cut the fire and rescue service to its bare bones, with Hampshire losing almost one in five of its firefighters since 2010, and the Isle of Wight losing more than one in four in that same period.’

The union claims that multiple other stations have been left with fire engines unavailable due to staff shortages in the period between December 28 and January 2.

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