Fire and Rescue Service explains logistics of operating retained fire stations following incident in Llangefni

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North Wales Fire and Rescue Service reacts to allay concerns raised by local residents and the media following the fire in Church St, Llangefni today (Tuesday 11 August), explaining how the retained duty system of firefighters operates.

 

Assistant Chief Fire Officer Richard Fairhead said:

 

“There has been much speculation following the incident in Llangefni today that there was a delay in mobilising appliances to the scene, with reports that it took appliances over half an hour to attend.

 

“The fact is that the time taken for the first appliance to reach the incident from the time of the 999 call into our control room was 19 minutes 45 seconds - which is not an unusually long time for a fire and rescue service like ours which covers a large rural area and with an operational workforce predominantly made up of retained or part time firefighters.

 

“I would like to take this opportunity to reassure the residents of North Wales that we consistently seek to provide the highest level of service to all those who live, work, visit and travel throughout the region.

 

“We work on a strategic basis keeping key fire stations available for attending incidents, or ‘on the run’. Part of our work involves maintaining fire cover throughout the region at all times, managing fluctuations in the availability of retained firefighters who are part time firefighters, many of whom have other careers and commitments elsewhere.

 

“Llangefni fire station has an excellent record of being available for mobilisation to incidents, although it was not one of the key appliances allocated for availability at the time of the fire in Church Street today.

 

“The stark reality is that a fire can occur at any time, anywhere and we are faced with the daily challenge of ensuring we are able to cater for that unpredictability to protect the public of North Wales.

 

“Appliances that were available to provide cover across the area today were allocated from elsewhere – it could easily have been the case that this fire had occurred in another nearby town and Llangefni could have been the available appliance at the time. Similarly had the Llangefni appliance been on the run it could have already been out at another incident and therefore the Llangefni appliance would still not have attended the Church St fire, with the nearest available appliance mobilised from elsewhere.

 

“We as a Service have long recognised the limitations of the retained duty system of firefighters – it is a problem we have to confront every day and is a symptom of working a system which is no longer fit for purpose and does not fir well with work-life balance challenges faced today.

 

“The availability of firefighters is always closely monitored and the public can rest assured that across North Wales we are continually working hard to maintain optimum availability. However, it is a recognised problem and as a Service we are actively investigating alternative solutions to providing fire cover in North Wales in the future which moves away from this traditional system adopted by fire and rescue services throughout the UK.

“The multi-agency response to the incident in Llangefni today was swift and effective, with firefighters successfully preventing the spread of the fire to the adjacent building and police effectively managing traffic and road diversions whilst we dealt with the incident.”

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