FBU calls on Cambridgeshire and Peterbrough fire authority to reconsider plans

Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue ServiceA new round of cost cutting measures could see Cambridge and Peterborough firefighters lose their specialist aerial emergency vehicle, leaving only “unreliable” combination vehicles to protect the local area.

As part of the £4.3m budget cuts Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Fire Authority plan to cut the turntable ladders and replace them with Multistars. Turntable ladders are the specialised equipment used to tackle high rise fires.

Multistars are a combined fire engine and aerial vehicle – used to tackle fires and rescue people from tall buildings – that have been plagued with years of defects and faults.

Cameron Matthews, secretary of the FBU in Cambridgeshire, said: “Since their introduction Multistars have experienced a catalogue of failings which have repeatedly put them out of action. In the past quarter year alone Multistars in Cambridge have suffered 11 significant defects and have been made unavailable.

“Ironically even as firefighters were told the news that our current, functioning vehicles would be cut, the aerial capability of the Multistar was unavailable.

“Firefighters see sense in the concept but have lost confidence in the vehicle and serious concerns around firefighter and public safety have been raised about relying solely upon the Multistar when it has broken down so many times.

“I know if I purchased a car for £650,000 with the record this vehicle has, I would most certainly be taking it back to the dealer and demanding my money back. These vehicles fall far short of expectations.”

Numerous incidents have been reported prompting safety fears:

  • In February a Multistar was required for use at a three storey house fire in Cambridge city. However it was unavailable and the turntable ladder was required.
  • In March at the Tivoli pub fire, the turntable ladder needed to use its pivot facility which is not available on the Multistar.
  • On several occasions, while on route to an incident, the Multistar aerial has become displaced forcing the driver to stop and complete a five minute fix before carrying on. In a fire every second counts. A delay of this kind could result in life being lost.

Matthews added: “We would appeal to the chief fire officer to reconsider such a move. If the decision goes ahead to remove the back-up turntable ladders from Cambridge and Peterborough there is a real risk that in the event that Kings College or a high rise flat in Peterborough catches fire, we fear these unreliable aerial vehicles will be unavailable to aid firefighters in saving life and property.

“In such an event the outcome could be devastating.”

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Tim Lezard

Campaigning journalist, editor of @Union_NewsUK, NUJ exec member; lover of cricket, football, cycling, theatre and dodgy punk bands

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