On Thursday 12 September, the city of Edinburgh’s Fire Brigade Union issued a press release responding to the suspected gas explosion that tore through a tenement building on Tuesday 10, killing one person.
At 17:00 on Tuesday, Firefighters were called to the site next to Tollcross Primary School. The fire is thought to be caused by a gas explosion, though an official investigation is still underway.
In a statement released earlier this week, the Fire Brigade Union (FBU) stated, “slipping fire safety standard [are] letting down the public” and that the “The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) must commit to year-on-year improvements to response, training, prevention, equipment and the creation of national standards”.
Despite the fact that “after decades of gradual improvements, Scotland has seen fires, fire death, non-fire incidents, and false alarms all plateau in recent years, while the total number of incidents firefighters responded to increased again this year”, the FBU claims that fire service reforms remain necessary.
It is reported that in Scotland alone, the number of serious fire-related incidents has increased annually since 2010, surpassing statistics recorded in both England and Wales. Last year Scottish firefighters responded to nearly 500 more incidents compared to the previous year, averaging a total of 91, 695 cases. According to the FBU, in 2018 firefighters rescued over 3,500 people, with 3,000 relating to non-fire incidents and then 500 rescued from actual fires.
FBU Scotland Secretary, Denise Christie said “We’ve been told time and time again that the fire and rescue service in Scotland is making people safer, but a lack of sustainable funding is bringing that into doubt. After years of improvements, fire safety indicators have plateaued – and it’s simply naive to say massive cuts to firefighter numbers over the last decade have nothing to do with it.
“It’s vital that MSPs agree to a serious long-term funding plan that can support firefighters in their life-saving work. Standards are slipping – we can’t allow these dangerous trends to continue. The service is letting the public and firefighters down.”
In asking Members of the Scottish Parliament to ensure sustainable funding for annual improvements, the FBU hopes to decrease fire occurrences, subsequent fire-related injuries, and deaths, and ensure faster response time.
When Firefighters numbers were decreased by approximately 700 in the last decade, this can be linked to the 2013 decision of the FBU to support the creation of single fire service for Scotland. Despite the previous total of 8 regional fire and rescue services, a decision was reached, according to the press release, “on the basis of the assurance given by the Scottish government and the Scottish parliament that it offered the opportunity for protecting and increasing frontline firefighter jobs and capability”.
The evident failings of the Fire Safety regulations during the recent Fountainbridge explosion suggest the Scottish Fire Brigade Union and its services face a worry crisis that could impact the entire county and its safety.
Image: Michael Ely via Geograph