Fire service response times across England MAPPED: How long might you have to wait? | UK | News
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The time it takes for a fire brigade to reach the scene of an incident depends heavily on where you live in England. Overall, the number of emergency calls has decreased, but the average response times are now significantly higher than in the past. At the end of an operationally challenging year in the service, while the cost of living crisis raged at home, the fire and ambulance union has joined others in the public sector to vote for a pay strike.
In the year to March 2022, firefighters in England have tackled 63,496 primary fires – the most serious incidents likely to result in injury to people or damage to property.
Over the past 20 years, the number of emergency calls to primary fires has fallen dramatically, by over 60 percent, according to the latest statistics from the Home Office.
However, over the same period, response times have increased by a third. Last year, it took an average of eight minutes and 50 seconds for fire and rescue services to reach the scene of a primary fire.
Turn back the clock almost 20 years and in the year to March 2003 they did it in an average of six minutes and 38 seconds – over two minutes faster than today.
There are around 10,000 fewer firefighters in England today than there were ten years ago
Commenting on the latest statistics earlier in the year, Andy Dark, Assistant Secretary General of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), said: “Up until 2004, mandatory national minimum fire coverage standards meant response times had to be fast.
“The government of the time abolished them, and since then every government has refused to reinstate them.
“Slow response times mean more serious fires, more deaths, more injuries, more damage to your homes and businesses.”
Response times also vary significantly between English counties and whether the area is predominantly urban or rural.
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The fastest response time of any English county is a minute slower than it was a decade ago
According to the latest available data, crews in North Yorkshire took longer to respond to primary fires than anywhere else in the country – an average of 12 minutes and 36 seconds.
This is nearly four minutes slower than the national average and half a minute behind second slowest Hereford and Worcester at 12 minutes and a second.
Just a decade ago, the longest average wait in the country was 10 minutes and 35 seconds – two minutes faster than today – in Cornwall.
Tyne and Wear had the shortest firefighting times in England 10 years ago at 5 minutes and 38 seconds.
Today, the average response time of six minutes and 37 seconds, while still at the top, is a minute slower.
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Fire and rescue services took an average of 10 minutes and 46 seconds to reach primary fires in mostly rural areas in the 12 months to March this year.
In mostly urban areas, that number drops to seven minutes and 36 seconds.
While the number of primary fires has declined, the total number of incidents attended to by firefighters – including less severe secondary fires, traffic accidents and flooding – has remained broadly flat over the past decade.
During this time, both the total number of personnel in the fire and rescue services and the number of firefighters employed have fallen by around 20 percent.
Mr Dark added: “Decades of cuts have resulted in fewer firefighters, fire trucks and fire stations. The government is playing roulette with our lives and property.”
FBU general secretary Matt Wrack warns of ‘terrible and very serious situation’
The FBU has joined public sector workers from all walks of life – including nurses, railway workers, postal workers and civil servants – in electing its members for strike action this winter.
Last month, with annual inflation hovering at 10.7 percent, union members overwhelmingly voted to reject a 5 percent pay rise from the government.
After an exceptionally hot and dry summer that led to a surge in demand for fire and rescue services – London Fire Brigade experienced its busiest day since the Second World War on July 19 – the National Fire Chief’s Council (NFCC) is now facing another impending event warned crisis this winter.
In October, the NFCC expressed concern that the number of accidental home fires could rise as the temperature drops while the cost-of-living crisis deepens as people look for alternative ways to keep warm.
According to the Home Office, in the year to March there were 940 accidental fires started by candles in English homes – the highest total recorded in over 10 years – of which around a third resulted in death or injury.