Investment urged in ‘dangerously overstretched’ fire service to aid floods work

Urgent investment is needed to ensure the “dangerously overstretched” fire service is prepared for flooding in future, following the devastation of Storm Babet, according to firefighters’ leaders.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) claimed that in areas of Nottinghamshire the fire service did not have enough resources to respond to all emergency calls.

The service was unable to respond to 72 incidents on October 20, the height of the flooding, due to a lack of resources, according to the union.

It pointed out that since 2010, one in five firefighter jobs have been cut across the UK.

The union will unveil a “Firefighters’ Manifesto” next week, setting out a vision for the future of the service.

General secretary Matt Wrack said: “Firefighters and control staff have been working round the clock to respond to the extreme weather and flooding caused by Storm Babet.

“The climate crisis means that extreme weather events are on the rise, but the Westminster Government still refuses to adequately fund the fire service for flood response.

Flooding in Retford, Nottinghamshire
Flooding in Retford, Nottinghamshire (Joe Giddens/PA)

“England is the only country in the UK without a clear statutory duty for fire and rescue services to plan and respond to floods.

“More than a decade of cuts has left the fire service dangerously overstretched on a daily basis. It is pushed beyond limits during emergencies like these.

“Storm Babet has exposed the urgent need to rebuild a properly funded and joined-up service.”

Nottinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service area manager, Matt Reavill, said: “During Storm Babet we attended a number of incidents, which included significant flooding in Stapleford, Eastwood and Retford, where we supported the evacuation of a number of properties and residents.

“We worked with partners across our Local Resilience Forum, too, as part of a wider co-ordinated response to the floods. We brought in a national tactical advisor to support us, set up a dedicated Incident Response Room and stood up additional resources including an extra boat team. Thankfully, this additional boat was not required.

“Ultimately, though, our crews and staff worked really hard over the weekend to support our communities and we are extremely proud of them all. We’re also thankful to the partners that worked with us as part of the flood response.

“Unfortunately there have been some reports that we were unable to attend large numbers of incidents due to resourcing, but we can reassure the public that this was not the case. Should anyone ever need us in an emergency, they should call 999 and we will attend.”