FBU says firefighters will be put at “intolerable risk” by driving to incidents in ill-equipped commercial vans


Firefighters have condemned plans to replace fire engines with little red vans.

The FBU has accused managers in South Yorkshire of multiple breaches of health and safety legislation over the imposed introduction of the vans, which will replace properly equipped and crewed fire engines.

The FBU has served a Safety Critical Notice warning them of their liability if a member of the public or a firefighter is injured or killed.

The so-called small fires units are commercial vans painted fire service red with blue lights and high visibility stripes. But that’s where any vague similarity with proper fire engines ends.

They have limited water capacity and only have a crew of 2 or 3 firefighters. The union also has concerns over the use of the breathing apparatus used by firefighters at fires, especially building fires and about how crews are trained.

FBU brigade secretary John Gilliver said: “Fire professionals know that every large fire starts as a small fire and we don’t always know what we will find when we arrive. Firefighters will be put at intolerable risk at incidents if they are deployed in these vans.

“If a small fire has spread to a building with people inside then 2 or 3 firefighters are not enough to deal with that safely. Everything that makes you a firefighter will push you to enter the building even with the greatly heightened risk you will face.

“We face risks in the hostile environments in which we work but we know how to limit the risks to us when there are enough personnel, equipment, proper procedures and training. These small fire units will not provide that.

“It is very difficult trying to tell a firefighter to stand outside a burning building and await a proper fire engine if we think someone is inside and alive when we arrive. We are trained to take offensive action on arrival to save lives where we can.

“These vans mean there will be too few firefighters, greatly increasing the risk to the few firefighters at the scene who will be under pressure to act. It places intolerable pressure on the officers in command at the scene and leaves them vulnerable if anything goes wrong.

“Firefighters have been killed in situations where there is a lack of personnel, equipment and training. This is all entirely foreseeable and the introduction of these vans is wreckless and totally unacceptable.”

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