South Yorkshire fire chiefs clash with union over helping ambulance service

Deputy Chief Fire Officer John Roberts
Deputy Chief Fire Officer John Roberts

Fire chiefs in South Yorkshire want firefighters to continue helping the ambulance service – despite union objections.

The Fire Brigades Union claims lives are being put at risk by crews responding to emergencies when ambulances are not available – but fire chiefs dispute the claim and say emergency services should all pull together.

Deputy Chief Fire Officer John Roberts

Deputy Chief Fire Officer John Roberts

The FBU claims crews are increasingly being called upon to help casualties when forcing entry into homes because of concerns for the welfare of occupants.

It says only a small percentage of firefighters are first aid trained and they should not be picking up the slack when ambulances are unable to get to an incident quickly enough.

A South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service spokesman said: “We are an emergency service and we respond to 999 calls when people need our assistance. It would be strange if anyone suggested we do anything different.

“We are clear that we are not a replacement for the ambulance service. We attend medical emergencies to help the ambulance service to gain entry, not as a primary responder, and we would expect ambulance crews to respond alongside us in a timely manner.

“Our crews have significant experience of medical intervention at road traffic collisions. Fire engines are staffed with five firefighters, at least one of whom is likely to be medically-trained. They would never make a medical situation worse and, if they can improve a casualty’s prospects or make them more comfortable, we believe everyone would expect them to do so.”

Deputy Chief Fire Officer John Roberts said: “The role of the fire service is to save lives.

“We are very much in favour of making the best use of firefighters for the benefit of the community.

“Historically we have always dealt with special service calls, and with fires reducing years on year it’s something we should continue doing.”