A chief fire officer has been accused of behaving wrecklessly after he sent home two firefighters from their shift on Monday (16 Jan) when they refused to operate a Tactical Response Vehicle (TRV).
The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) say that these vehicles are unsafe because they cannot perform firefighting or rescue operations at incidents where there is a risk to life, such as house fires.
Nigel Hutchinson, chief fire officer for North Yorkshire, took the decision after a fire engine was removed from service at Scarborough fire station and replaced with a TRV.
The two firefighters followed union guidance and refused to crew the vehicle. They were then relieved for the remainder of their shift and sent home leaving Scarborough without enough crew members to operate one of its fire engines or specialist equipment used to for high rise rescues.
Steve Howley, secretary of the FBU in North Yorkshire, said: “The actions of the CFO were uncalled for and unnecessary. He has sullied his reputation and put the safety of the public at risk. It is disgraceful that our members are being victimised by management for standing up to defend the safety of their colleagues and the public. It confirms a total disregard for public and firefighter safety.
“The way that managers want to utilise and crew TRV’s is creating a major safety issue and moral dilemma for our firefighters. If these vehicles were the first ones to respond to a major fire, as management has indicated they could be, all they could do is survey the scene. They cannot perform rescue operations and have limited firefighting capabilities.
“These proposals are going to significantly increase the risk to firefighters and the public getting seriously injured or killed.”
The FBU in North Yorkshire is in a lawful trade dispute with the local fire authority over the introduction of TRV’s that are crewed by as few as two firefighters.
The proposals were due to be phased in over a four year period so that the service and union could fully explore different efficiency savings.
However, the union now feels that the CFO is trying to ‘railroad’ the TRV’s into service over the next six months despite the safety concerns the FBU have raised remaining unanswered.