Why can’t firefighters double as paramedics?

We have fewer and fewer fires, and ambulance services are under huge strain. There’s only one problem: the Fire Brigades Union

12 September 2015

9:00 AM

12 September 2015

9:00 AM

As a nation, we are learning to accept that our firemen are more and more redundant. The Fire Brigades Union fights austerity at every turn; its spokesmen say that every reduction in station numbers or jobs is a threat to public safety. One of their campaign posters even showed David Cameron and George Osborne alongside the words, ‘They slash. You burn.’

But the statistics undermine the union’s manipulative language of doom. The cuts have been matched by a continuing decline in dangerous fires. According to figures released at the end of last month, the fire brigades attended 495,000 incidents in the year 2014–15, a decrease of 42 per cent compared with ten years ago. But of these incidents, only 31 per cent were actual fires: 44 per cent were false alarms, with other operations like floods, road traffic and animal rescue making up the rest. In 2014–15 there were 258 fire deaths in England, 16 fewer than in the previous year and 30 per cent lower than ten years ago.

It is now clear that a heavily staffed fire service is an anachronism, so things will have to change radically. One unorthodox proposal just put forward by the Local Government Association was that underemployed firefighters should become quasi-social workers. Among the roles envisaged for this new breed of hose-and-care operatives are running courses to encourage overweight children to become fitter, checking families for signs of domestic abuse, and ‘helping babies and toddlers sleep safely by distributing cots and Moses baskets’.

There is a far more sensible solution. Instead of half-baked social workers, firefighters should become fully fledged paramedics, helping to relieve the tremendous, growing pressures that the ambulance service is facing. The brigades should merge with ambulance crews to create a proper, effective emergency and rescue service. That is what happens in most other European countries — and the system works well, precisely because it is geared to real public needs rather than outdated working practices.

Our ambulance services are grossly overstretched. The number of emergency calls to ambulance switchboards in 2014–15 reached 9 million, an increase of 515,000 on the year before. That deluge of calls resulted in 4.7 million emergency patient journeys, most of them involving Category A (the most serious, urgent) cases. The demand on ambulance crews is up to ten times that on the fire brigades. Which partly explains why so many paramedics are leaving their jobs: 1,015 of them quit in 2013–14, up from 593 two years earlier. One of them, Michelle Sanderson, reflected on the stresses that had driven her into premature retirement: ‘There is very little time for a lunch or a toilet break. There was no respite. As soon as you came back from one call, you had to go out and do another.’

Firefighters face nothing like this constant strain. Indeed, a 2013 report from the former London fire commissioner Sir Ken Knight produced the remarkable statistic that the average firefighter now attends just 43 fires a year, less than one a week. The endless strikes called by the FBU in disputes over pensions and cuts have had little impact: in what other public service could regular walkouts by key professionals go almost unnoticed? During one recent bout of industrial action in London, it was a revealed that a third of striking firefighters had additional occupations. Among them were three mortgage brokers, a chiropodist, two butchers, a private investigator, a male model and two undertakers. One fireman even worked as a film extra on the Hollywood hit movie Prince of Persia.

Absurdly, the fire brigades actually have more staff than the ambulance services. Last year, there were about 45,000 fire service employees, including around 37,000 firefighters. By contrast, the ambulance workforce in England comprised of just under 19,000 qualified crew members and 14,000 support staff, a total of 33,000. Worse, underworked firefighters tend to be paid much better than overworked ambulance crews. The basic salary for a qualified firefighter is now £29,054, while a trained ambulance practitioner can only earn up to £22,236. Even senior paramedics start on £26,041.

In his 2013 report, Sir Ken Knight argued that fire authorities ‘now need to transform themselves to reflect the entirely different era of risk’. The best way to achieve that transformation is to require fire crews to train as paramedics and perform ambulance duties when they are not engaged in rare moments of firefighting. Some authorities are moving in that direction, through the creation of joint operations and join control rooms. A pioneering project in Long Sutton between the Lincolnshire Fire Brigade and the East Midlands Ambulance Service has seen patients taken to hospital by the nearest emergency vehicle available.

What we need, however, is a co-ordinated overhaul to bring the two services together. That is precisely what the FBU, desperate to defend its cushy vested interests, has long ferociously opposed. ‘Vital fire prevention work will be compromised,’ claims Matt Wrack, dismissing plans for firefighters to work as paramedics. But even the union now recognises that the fall in fires makes its blanket opposition untenable. Earlier this year the FBU Executive agreed to review its policy on medical emergencies, admitting there is ‘real scope’ for the fire service to ‘expand its role’.

What we do not need, however, is for the fire brigades and the FBU to use makeshift medical work as just an added extra to support the current structure. That is what has happened in parts of the USA. The economics professor Fred S. McChesney has written, ‘Firefighters have touted themselves as “first responders” who can answer a medical emergency faster than paramedics in an ambulance. But when they arrive without training or equipment to deal with severe medical emergencies, they are of little use.’

A truly integrated service, as exists in France with the Sapeurs Pompiers, is the real answer. Reformers should pay no heed to the FBU leaders, who have destroyed their credibility with their crude blackmail.

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  • joe_publik

    In many parts of the US this is what happens – firemen also double as paramedics. But it doesn’t work! In the city where I lived 90% of call outs were medical emergencies. The fire service was almost always the first responder. But then they are followed by more fire trucks (nothing else to do), the police and, yes, an ambulance. A sprained ankle can call down as many as a dozen people. The fire service has obtained and held a stranglehold and have used it to put in yearly 5% pay demands – and retirement at 50 on 100% plus of final salary. The city, like hundreds of others, now approaches bankruptcy.

    • Sten vs Bren

      We don’t let our cities go bankrupt because there are millions of people living in them. You let your cities go bankrupt for the same reason.

    • edithgrove

      My understanding is that in the US paramedics have been absorbed into the fire service and operate under the same banner but otherwise they are quite separate. A fireman is not giving first aid, although a paramedic is part of the fire brigade.

      • joe_publik

        I can only speak for the city in which I lived and in surrounding cities that I visited in pursuit of information with a committee of which I was a member.

        An ambulance also attends the injury scene. It is a private, for-hire ambulance which your insurance usually covers. It is there to transport the patient or the corpse as the need arises. Fire trucks can’t do this.

        The paramedics on board the fire trucks are invariably moonlighting ambulance personnel. So one shift they may appear on the fire truck and the next shift in an ambulance. They need to do this because they are paid much less than their union dominated fire brethren who simply drive the trucks.

        One committee colleague I travelled with was an ex deputy fire chief for a major city. He explained that 20 years ago the fire unions clearly saw that they were becoming virtually redundant and set about appropriating the much more necessary first responder slot. Private ambulance services are mandated to follow the lead and direction of the fire service. They cannot operate independently.

        This is the natural behaviour of public sector unions the world over.

        • Pacificweather

          It’s all those skyscrappers. When they do get a fire they can’t fight them so they have become redundant but the San Francisco earthquake and fire ensures they all have jobs for life getting cats out of trees. The high number of wood frame houses also works to their advantage by ensuring houses are burnt to the ground before the fire truck can get there. The splendid work by Underwriter’s Laboratories has paid off handsomely.

        • edithgrove
  • so3paperclips

    There’s no detail at all here about how it might actually work. Making “firefighters” be paramedics just means that there will be no one available to answer fire calls when they come in. There are synergies from having a single coordinating service, but they are real estate/administrative/management rather than people. I haven’t seen any explanation of how you can routinely deploy a force which needs to be on short notice.

    • WFB56

      Its not nearly as hard as you suggest; once the principle is accepted the implementation will follow.

      Although another alternative is just to make half of the existing firefighers redundant now – this will allow them to spend all of their time at their real jobs in construction – and if they want to re-apply as paramedics they can be given a first priority.

      • so3paperclips

        That’s a pretty glib response. I have yet to see anything that even attempts to balance a. the requirement that that firefighters be available to deploy at short notice b. the full-time nature of paramedic work (you can’t just chuck a patient out of an ambulance if a fire comes up) and c. the strictures of working hours legislation.

        Until I do, I’ll just file this as politically motivated bollocks.

        I will happily concede that there are certain ambulance calls that can be dealt with by the fire brigade with minimal medical training, like elderly people falling and potential hoaxes, but that isn’t what is being proposed at all.

        • P_S_W

          Well maybe you should research how this politically motivated bollocks works in other countries.

          • so3paperclips

            So you don’t know either. Thanks for that. Although not quite sure why you bothered wasting 2 minutes of your life letting us know.

          • red2black

            He does have a point, if crudely put. What the author of the article proposes sounds like preparation for yet more privatisation along American lines.

        • Pacificweather
      • Sten vs Bren

        “implementation will follow”

        🙂 Yes. He’s asking what it will be.

        Also, you are very free with your redundancy notices. I’m not sure that you have really thought that through.

    • Latimer Alder

      So how do the lifeboats manage it? Seems to work for them.

      They’re all volunteers who have other jobs.

      • red2black

        Perhaps there are firefighters and medically trained people among those who voluntarily man and support the lifeboats?

    • HJ777

      It seems to work just fine in France.

      You assertion that there will be no-one available to respond to fire calls makes no sense whatsoever. If the overall number of emergency staff says the same but they are multi-skilled, then they can be used flexibly and the service will improve.

      • so3paperclips

        That’s not how it works in France. France has a complicated and overlapping system of Sappeurs Pompiers, SAMU and private suppliers, which arguably is considerably less efficient.

        • HJ777

          Where is your evidence that it is ‘considerably less efficient’?

  • WFB56

    An excellent suggestion.

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  • davidofkent

    That’s precisely what happens in France. Les Pompiers are also the Emergency 1st line medics.

    • Mary Ann

      Yes, but the ambulances are all private.

      • red2black

        You seem to have latched on to where this is all heading.

      • Hamburger

        Not in Germany. We too have an integrated service with additional volunteers.

  • Barry & Yvonne St-Hargreaves

    Neo Liberal pap. So there are only 260 dead instead of 380, is that enough reason for the Tories to cut ,cut,cut.

  • Sten vs Bren

    Ah, yes; the unaffordable luxury of having sufficient fire fighters and equipment to tackle a large blaze.

    This is obviously a man who’s never seen ‘Where’s That Fire?’ starring Will Hay.

    • SteveGJ

      You are basing your analysis of modern emergency fire emergency control systems on a WW II comedy sketch?

  • Sunset66

    Maybe they could collect the bins as well

    • edithgrove

      and write for the Spectator

  • DGM

    This is a really misleading title. Paramedics are medical professionals who generally have a degree in their field, and who can perform complex medical procedures as well as give many drugs. Unless the proposition is that firefighters go through the same training, they will not be ‘paramedics’; they will be first aiders or first responders.

    I appreciate that, to the uninitiated, this may look like a distinction without a difference, but it really is not. When your dad collapses with chest pain and needs more than an aspirin, you want the first medic on scene to be a paramedic not a firefighter. More investment in medical education is required.

    • HJ777

      “A truly integrated service, as exists in France with the Sapeurs Pompiers, is the real answer.”

      What is your objection to this suggestion? It seems to work rather well in France.

      • DGM

        My objection is to the proposition in the title of the article; ‘Why can’t firefighters double as paramedics?’. They can’t without doing the years of training to be a paramedic, because, without that training, they are vastly inferior to paramedics.

        What they could do, however, is act as first aider/first responders, providing that this doesn’t result in inadequate treatment. And of course we all know that adequate treatment delayed is adequate treatment denied. Because you are dead.

        • HJ777

          I asked for your objection to the suggestion that we have an integrated service like the Sapeurs Pompiers in France.

          Do you have one, and if so, why?

          • hdb

            The objection is that it would involve retraining every firefighter medically! That would be a massive and expensive operation.

          • HJ777

            Nobody is suggesting that it could be done overnight.

            In the long run, of course, it would be no more expensive than it is in France, where it seems to work just fine.

          • DGM

            –> “What they could do, however, is act as first aider/first responders, providing that this doesn’t result in inadequate treatment. And of course we all know that adequate treatment delayed is adequate treatment denied. Because you are dead.”

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  • james

    What a stupid article. Most ambulance calls are not category A,as you suggest. Most are a complete waste of time.

    • E.I.Cronin

      Have you heard from ambos that a significant majority of their call outs are for druggie od’s; ice-induced psychotic episodes and fitting gbh users? Apparently genuine medical emergencies suffer as a result. I once helped 2 ambos restrain and strap a fitting gbh user into a stretcher, down an elevator and into the van – it took 4 of us. I’ve never seen anything like it. His body flipped up and down like Linda Blair in the exorcist, then he peed his pants and a huge stain made it’s way through the blanket. Classy. I should have videod on my phone and sent it in to drug awareness campaigns.
      Anyway my question is – do you think the strain and waste of ambos time (and they have my utmost respect) would be reduced if they gave druggies a hefty bill for callouts as a deterrent so genuine medical emergencies could be attended to?

    • HJ777

      The article is not stupid – the problem is that you are unable to read.

      It does not say that most ambulance calls are category A. It says that of 9 million emergency calls, 4.7m result in emergency patient journeys and of these 4.7m, a majority involve category A cases.

  • Big Baps Cadogan.

    This article is just naughty and is driven by the bash- the- unions- at- all- costs- because they- are- stopping- my- friend- Jamie- making- a- lot- of- money mindset. Why not advocate G4S taking the whole contract. I’m sure that would make everything even better-for G4S shareholders, in Malaysia, in Indonesia, in China.

    • HJ777

      Why not, indeed?

      I believe that G4S do rather a good job with the Danish fire service. And if they ever didn’t, then the contract can be awarded to someone else.

  • Joseph Hooker

    Absolutely right the FBU has been taking the piss for years.

    • Pacificweather

      I thought they used hoses to deliver it.

  • Morken

    How about going the whole hog and getting rid of all the fireman and turn some of them into paramedics , because you sure as hell will need them for the burnt and severely injured that will clog up the hospitals or perhaps just accept that people who could have been saved with the fire service are just left to die, as an act of God !

  • David

    Please keep this topic going.
    From the early comments, it is easy to see that all many supporters of the status quo have to offer is personal abuse.
    Not much use expecting them to answer the arguments for reform.

    • red2black

      In preparation for more privatisation?

    • james

      There maybe an argument for reform , for both service, if ambulances were used for genuine medical emergencies, instead of transport for ridiculous none life threatening cases like maternity ,drunks and the like. (blue light taxis). I would venture to suggest that the call out rate would be about the same therefore, the article is stupid and poorly thought through.

  • Gilbert White

    Actually forbidden under current EU. rules. A great idea though a lot of fireman I know are very interested in gynaecological matters, so they could double up as mid-wives, as well. Women fireman could double up as wet nurses as well.

  • Harryagain

    Yet another brain dead journalist.
    Fails to appreciate the training needed to do either job.
    Everything is simple to the simple minded.

  • Joseph Hooker

    Just about all firemen have second jobs, a nice little earner because of their terms and conditions they have the time to do so. Yet they continue to bleat about being a “professional” service. They have the wages and pensions but in reality are not professionals. Paramedics however are more than first aiders and deserve the recognition and status that befits their highly skilled abilities, I doubt firemen could be paramedics, they could however provide first aid and would be surprised if they don’t already do so.

    • Aled Morris

      If a firefighter has a second job it means he/she is putting in the extra hours to earn more money. Anyone can do that. Anyone. Why is it wrong?

      • Joseph Hooker

        For the simple reason they provide a rescue service and must be as fit for duty as possible. They are already allowed to sleep their night shift if no calls come in and their terms and conditions are the envy of the private sector.

        • Aled Morris

          A firefighter can work 2 full days of his/her days off and have a complete day of rest before starting back as a firefighter on shift. It’s the same as someone working 9 till 5 during the week and having a second job on the weekend. It never impacts on their ability to be fit for duty. What do you suggest firefighters do during the night? School talks? Put up smoke alarms? Fire safety visits? There is always going to be a dormant period for this role in such an industry. What is your opinion of a professional service also seeing that you claim that firefighters are not professional?

          • Joseph Hooker

            Sorry Aled, I chose the wrong words. My dad was a fireman so I know the ropes, I too might have been a fireman had it not been for my eyesight. Everyone feels firemen put their lives on the line and the public owe them. They are indeed a professional service that is why they are recognised as such with the pay pension, terms and conditions they have and quite rightly. All this does not mean they should hold the public to ransom and they do occasionally with industrial action through the FBU. Firemen have it about right please don’t swing the lead.

          • Aled Morris

            You might well be taking a different stance if you had become a firefighter and it was your working conditions and pention being messed around with. I’m sure your father would have been a part of strikes in the past in order to maintain his rights and conditions as a firefighter. I do hope that your vision hasn’t been clouded by the media over the industrial disputes in recent times as it is not over pay but working conditions and pention. However good you think a fireman has it, it is moraly wrong to promise a pention to someone and then change it whenever they like.

          • Joseph Hooker

            Point taken.

          • Aled Morris

            Holding the country to ransom? It is everyone’s right in this country to stand up for their rights. You would happily stand by and watch the government cheat workers out of what they signed up for? Your old man would have done OK but for those younger firefighters who signed the same pention and were promised the same things will be given a fraction of what he had.

          • Aled Morris

            Firefighters do not want any more than they signed up for, you say firefighters have it about right well its maintaining it is what the industrial action is about, not wanting more. You will say ‘ well everyone in the public sector have had to take a hit’. The fire service have taken the brunt of it in fact when ironicly the fire service pention pot was one of the sustainable ones. Cuts to peoples pentions to correct the deficit caused by bankers and government is not right.

    • Mike Ed

      FF’s could be put through a twelve week emergency medical technician course that would take them to the level of cardiac defibrillation and IV insertion. A full service paramedic could be trained in two years. There is no need for paramedics to have university degrees, this is credentialism and serves the purposes of ambulance industry empire builders.

      The first paramedics, in USA (1960’s), Australia and NZ(1970’s) had only a few months training and these pioneers literally revolutionised emergency care. Unions should be advocating integration and upskilling, not fighting the inevitable.

  • mariandavid

    It works just fine in Canada and the US and France and ———: And arguments about training needed that are identical to paramedics is misleading. In the real world – where responders are not allowed to just stand aside because of arcane rules – firefighters perform medical help at any level, regardless of competance, until more competant responders arrive.

    Seems obvious but of course in England tradition supersedes sense.

  • Tom M

    “…..A truly integrated service, as exists in France with the Sapeurs Pompiers…..”
    Correct. If you fall over and break a leg then is is a toss up whether to call the Pompiers or the SAMU (paramedics). Either will give you the attention you need.
    Who you call is usually decided between whether there is some other factor at the scene. Such as if you fell down a well and broke your leg then call the Pompiers. They have the kit to get you out. Purely medical, probably better to call the SAMU.
    And most likely as a consequence of their usefulness the Pompiers are very well respected in France.

  • frank davidson

    Interesting article. It is true that the number of fires are much reduced and probably less severe with the demise of our heavy industry. Whilst working in the Middle East with huge oil facilities and shipping terminals much of the fire service was part time volunteers called out to support the professionals. Worked well.

    • SteveGJ

      The considerable majority of building fires occur in the home and are the overwhelmingly most likely place for casualties (88%). Reading some of the stats, it looks like much of it is down to improved safety standards for equipment as, apparently, misuse of domestic equipment is the largest single causes. Newer stuff is less likely to catch fire if abused I suppose. Also, it looks like some unexpected social changes have made a difference – a big drop in chip fires. We have oven chips to thank for that I guess (or takeaways from McDonalds).

      Lots of fascinating stuff in this link


  • Sten vs Bren

    “Why can’t firefighters double as paramedics?”

    Because at incidents that require both, ambulances and fire appliances the Fire Service calls the shots on grounds of safety. They can not be also be in charge of casualties when they are running the site.

    Why can’t journalists pick up litter on the way home from work? Or run old people up the shops on the way in? Just put the hours in.

  • trace9

    “During one recent bout of industrial action in London, it was a revealed
    that a third of striking firefighters had additional occupations. Among
    them were three mortgage brokers, a chiropodist, two butchers, a
    private investigator, a male model and two undertakers. One fireman even
    worked as a film extra on the Hollywood hit movie Prince of Persia.”

    So these were Retained (part-time firemen), as against Wholetime Firemen? There are two kinds of firefighter & you cannot make the part-time firemen also part-time medics. (There’d be No-time left for their main job/profession.) Geddit?

  • Bangor58

    In suburban towns in New England, where there is very little crime and few fires, both the police and the firemen are trained as First Responders. Usually the closest patrol car will be the first to arrive, followed by the firemen who have come from their station. The advantage of this system is that the family and neighbors of the person with the medical problem develop a good relationship with those First Responders.

    • Aled Morris

      You are referring to very low population areas. Fire cover in UK in low populated areas is mainly retained.(part time).

  • universal_cynic

    “Last year, there were about 45,000 fire service employees, including around 37,000 firefighters. By contrast, the ambulance workforce in England comprised of just under 19,000 qualified crew members and 14,000 support staff, a total of 33,000. Worse, underworked firefighters tend to be paid much better than overworked ambulance crews. The basic salary for a qualified firefighter is now £29,054, while a trained ambulance practitioner can only earn up to £22,236. Even senior paramedics start on £26,041.”

    Indeed, we should be training more paramedics and giving them a better salary, I assume that’s what you’re getting at?

  • UnhygienixTheFishmonger

    Turn it all over to the RNLI and let them run it.
    In much of Europe firefighting is a part time, volunteer activity.
    The RNLI is a masterpiece of efficiency and effectiveness. The Big Society in action.

    • Sten vs Bren

      You people would turn the entire country over to charity. Fire? Send for charity. Hungry? Charity. Troubled children? Send them to charity.

      Amateurism is supposed to be for fun not for essential services.

  • Steve Larson

    So reduce the quality of ambulance people to non-specialized emergency care.

    The likes of the writer will probably have a private service but for most of those who voter Tory or Labour, they’ll be getting a Jack of all trades.

    Pretending this is to do with the Firefighters Union is just a cheap trick so you can justify sub par care and a race to the bottom.

  • Aled Morris

    How simple minded is this guy?
    Are you suggesting that all firefighters go through the long and challenging training to qualify them as paramedics as well? Also I’m assuming the paramedics would have to become firefighters too right……to make it fully integrated.
    Do you think that all firefighters have the ability to become medical professionals? Also, have you considered the skill fade that would go along with adding this HUGE extra skill to the long list of things a firefighter trains for anyway?
    Do you think that every firefighters would deal with enough medical cases to maintain his/her competencies?
    You my friend are a fool!

    • Hamburger

      Perhaps you would care to look at what happens here. We have an integrated fire and ambulance system, as well as having, even in places like Hamburg, the majority of firemen are non professional volunteers. It works well here.

      • Aled Morris

        Are the firefighters paramedics? I’m not sure what your point about ‘the majority of firemen are non professional volunteers’ is trying to make?

        • Hamburger

          The point I am making is that it is sometimes sensible to look over the garden wall to see how other industrial countries deal with the problem, because they are usually the same. As regards the volunteers, they are often useful.

          • Aled Morris

            I am all for learning from different countries but your point is irrelevant to the discussion. Should firefighters double up as paramedics? Are you saying they should be paramedics? Germany’s integrated fire and ambulance service is not the same. The firefighters are not paramedics are they? Good on the Germans for having so many volunteers but having volunteers turning up at a fire and a make shift fireman/medic turning up to a life threatening medical emergency just seems wrong to me.

  • knocke

    In France,
    bartenders know whom to call:

    Recently I noticed a man collapsing in a bar in Rouen (Normandy): “Call an ambulance,” shouted I to the bartender. “Sure thing, Monsieur,” said he, dialing. Soon came the wailing sound and two firemen strode in, knew what to do and did it.

  • louie

    This Leo Mckinstry fella seems to have a real bee in his bonet about the fire service. He has written plenty of articles over the years slamming the fire service and quoting complete and utter rubbish about what we actually do.

    Yes fires are down by 40% but that is purely down to the hard work carried out constantly by firefighters that has driven down these stats, after all who ever said that fighting fires was our only duty. Other than all special service calls such as floods, animal rescues, road traffic accidents, lock outs, making scenes safe and automated fire alarms etc, we also go to schools, colleges and local events to promote fire safety, and we all have quotas to hit on the number of home safety visits we do, fitting smoke alarms and fire safe letter boxes.

    When all that is being done the kit we carry for all emergencys needs constant training, including standard firecraft drills, breathing apparatus drills which has to be done regularly, and thats just the basics, on top of that the modern fire service now has plenty of specialist appliances and also now do rope rescue, water rescue and plenty more whuch require a high level of intensive and regular training.

    Mr Mckinstry talks as though we sit on fire stations awaiting 999 calls. Our working days and nights are full, and yes before someone mentions it, we do sometimes have a full night in bed, but unless you’ve turned up to a house fire, rigged in breathing apparatus and entered a building that is hotter than you cook your roast chicken at, carried out a full search in zero visability and worked hard to resolve the incident including hours of damping down and pulling buildings apart after the fire has been put, until you have done that for yourself Mr Mckinstry you will NEVER understand the importance of crews being rested.

    To compare us to the ambulance service is like comparing a plumber to a carpenter! Both in a similar trade but completely different jobs. I applaud the ambulance service and commend the amazing job they do, they deserve alot more money than they get and to quote their pay against ours only shows how poorly paid and how disgustingly treated they are by the powers that be.

    Again you mention firefighters have second employment! I would love you to explain what that has to do with anything? The reason we do is because in todays terms we do not get paid enough to run a family and pay a mortgage, despite what the government tell you! After tax and our now increased pension contributions which are higher than anyone elses, my fire brigade wages dont even cover my mortgage and bills! I have 2 kids that need clothing and feeding! Where do you think that money would come from if i didnt work a second job?, its certainly not a privalidge as i do actually have to work double the hours of everyone else to be able to pay for my kids! Its not given to me for free!!!

    As for firefighters taking on first responding on medical calls is flawed in many ways and is nothing more than manipulation from the goverment to save money. Each time a fire appliance goes out it costs the brigade money, for the crew (usually 4, used to be 5 persons) fuel and time, yet the powers that be seem to think putting this on a fire service that has already faces savage cuts is going to save money? Its not, all its going to do is deplete the fire service even more! Already we have insufficient numbers, already we have reduced fire cover and already we are facing further cuts. Now we are going to be tied up on medical calls reducing fire cover even further and putting public at ever increasing risks. If your loved one collapsed, would you want a medical professional turn up or a fire crew with very basic training?

    Yes, as you state they do it in America, but what you failed to mention is firefighters in the USA are paid extra for riding the paramedic pumps and are trained professionals who are trained to the same level as paramedics! If you think thats whats going to happen in this country then uou are an exremely naive individual who sees fit to write articles based on government statistic and zero prior knowledge shows nothing but incompetence at your job and lazy journalism! To put it into context, if we showed that level of incompetence in our roll, people would lose their lives and we would lose our jobs.

    If you think you can run any emergency service based on statistics, then you show a complete lack of understanding of the nature of our work! There is no science to fires and other rescue jobs we do and to quote stats and make decisions based on them is a very dangerous place to be! Ask Boris, closed 10 stations based on stats despite a majority opposing the closures, and a year later a man loses his life because the attendence time was far too long! Although you may not know that, as usual the media are silenced from reporting that sort of thing!

    In future Mr Mckinstry, dont fall into the trap of lazy journalism, do your job properly and fully research your subjects befor writing such poorly informed articles.