Rising traffic levels are slowing down Dorset's firefighters

Rising traffic levels are slowing down Dorset's firefighters

Published by Maria Greenwood at 11:46am 24th January 2020.

Firefighters in Dorset and Wiltshire took roughly a third of a minute longer to reach the most serious fires last year, than they did five years ago.

The Fire Brigades Union warns that a matter of seconds "could be the difference between life and death", blaming cuts to fire and rescue services for the rising response times across England.

  • Home Office data reveals that Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service took an average of nine minutes and 54 seconds to reach primary fires in 2018-19.
  • That means firefighters took 23 seconds longer to reach the scene last year than in 2013-14, while the average response time was up by six seconds from 2017-18.
Fire Engines

'What are primary fires?'

Primary fires are the most serious, with the potential to harm people or cause damage to property.

In Dorset and Wiltshire, during 2018-19, call handling took an average of one minute and seven seconds, while crew turnout took around two minutes and 20 seconds.

Driving to the scene took up most of the service’s response time, with the average journey to primary fires taking six minutes and 28 seconds – 47 seconds longer than in 2013-14.

Druce tractor fire

Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Assistant Chief Fire Officer, James Mahoney said: 

"There are four key components to the way in which response times are measured, these are the length of the 999 call itself, the station being alerted to the incident, crew turning out to the station which includes drive time to the station for on-call crews, and the drive time from the station to the incident. 

"The Government's own analysis into the cause of the national increase in fire response times concluded that rising traffic levels, affecting both the response time to the station and the response from the station to the incident location, was the primary cause. 

"We recognise the criticality of responding as quickly as possible to an emergency and any incidents where we fail to achieve our response standard are thoroughly investigated and where managerial action can be taken to improve, we ensure this is implemented."

Fire Engine DWF&R 1

However, Matt Wrack, general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, says cuts to services have had a "staggering" impact on response times over a number of years.

He said:

"In a fire, a matter of seconds could be the difference between life and death, so these figures are incredibly alarming.

"Services have been cut to the bone, and it’s obvious that with fewer firefighters and scarcer resources, firefighters are taking longer to get to fires, putting lives and businesses at risk.

"This is just part of the picture. Many services are not properly crewing fire engines, so there is no guarantee that there will be a safe number of firefighters on board when it arrives."