York’s main fire station was unmanned and closed for an entire day, it has emerged.
The station, on Kent Street, was closed at 8am on Tuesday (25 June) and only reopened at 6pm. Both the fire engine and the rescue boat based there were locked inside.
North Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Service said the closure happened because staff were off sick or on training courses elsewhere, and that cover was provided by Huntington and Acomb stations.
But the secretary of the North Yorkshire Fire Brigades Union Steve Howley said he feared lives would be lost if this situation keeps happening.
With the river in flood and deaths in the river reaching an unprecedented level over recent months, the service should be doing everything in its power to keep this vital resource available 24/7, not casually pulling the shutters down if enough staff are not on duty to crew it.
A spokesman for the North Yorkshire Fire service said crews were required to attend courses at the service training centre. She said:
When staff and fire engines are at the training centre, fire cover is maintained by moving people or fire engines to assure that emergency response is in place.
Yesterday, two members of York station attended training at the Service Training Centre which had been planned for some time, a number of staff were absent due to ill health.
Whilst the fire engine and boat from Kent Street were not available, crews at Huntington and Acomb fire station provided fire cover and the rescue boat from Selby, which forms part of the planned emergency response to water incidents in the York area, was available
As there was fire cover in the York area, a member of staff from York station was moved to another fire station to improve fire cover in other parts of the county.
These decisions aren’t taken lightly and we recognise the FBU’s concerns.
She added: “We’re currently understaffed and about to launch (on the 1st July) our first recruitment of new wholetime firefighters for 10 years.
“While they’re being recruited and training, a 9 month process, temporary wholetime contracts will be given to some of our on-call firefighters.
“This will immediately alleviate the situation, and in the longer term we’ll be back to full strength.”
The brigade is particularly interested in hearing from under-represented groups as part of the recruitment campaign. More information about the wholetime firefighter recruitment is available on the service’s website.