Union chiefs today urged Gazette readers to rail against plans to no longer man a vital firefighting tool, claiming the decision could lead to long delays in tackling huge blazes.
Crews at Blackpool fire station were left stunned after discovering funding has been cut for crewing of the aerial ladder platform (ALP), which has been used to tackle major fires across the resort.
The blow comes just months after a successful Gazette campaign saw one of the station’s two fire engines saved from Government cuts, after the union said the move would potentially cost lives.
Now Chris Molloy, the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) Blackpool representative, has described the latest cut, which has been introduced without public consultation, as “ridiculous”.
He said: “It’s the most effective appliance that we have got for large fires. It effectively puts out big fires.
“If we require it now there’s going to be a long delay waiting for it which is going to be critical.”
The ALP features a platform attached to a ladder, which allows the crews to tackle blazes from a greater height.
In the past five firefighters were assigned to each of the two regular engines on each shift, while two looked after the ALP in case it was required.
Now five are assigned to one engine and four to the other, with no permanent cover for the ALP.
It means firefighters from other Fylde coast stations will have to be drafted in to man the £400,000 equipment, one of the other engines will have to be sacrificed so the ALP can be taken out, or an alternative ALP will have to be driven over from Preston.
Mr Molloy added: “All the while the fire is growing and growing. We’ll get it there eventually but that’s not much help if you’re stuck on the roof of a burning building.
“What I would urge readers to do is to contact their local MPs and voice their concerns over these cuts.” Major incidents in Blackpool at which the ALP has proved invaluable in tackling blazes include the fire at the Walkabout bar last year and the huge Yates’ fire in 2009.
The changes have been brought about by Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service’s policy of “switch crewing”, which means crews will switch from one to the other depending on the requirements of the specific incident.
The service’s deputy chief fire officer, Justin Johnson, said: “Switch crewing enables fire crews to respond with either or both vehicle types according to the requirements of an emergency call.
“The decision to change to switch crewing has been long-standing and subject to trade union consultation and agreement.
“Switch crewing is in place across a number of stations including Preston where the ALP has been flexibly crewed for a number of years.”