London Covid: Lack of fire trucks gets worse as Omicron proliferation forces hundreds of firefighters to isolate

The number of London firefighters being forced to insulate continues to rise, with over a third of fire trucks out of service.

So few firefighters were available at the turn of the day on Christmas Day that 50 fire trucks out of 142 were out of service, or 35%.

There were 42 fire trucks out of service the day before. A majority of shifts from December 24 to 27 saw a shortage of at least 40 engines due to lack of staff available to man them.

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The shortage also includes a new 64-meter ladder, purchased in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire. It was unavailable the night of December 24th and the day of December 25th.

Previous figures showed 40 fire trucks were unavailable over four days in mid-December.

Covid has left 740 firefighters testing positive or otherwise having to isolate themselves, meaning more than 15% were unavailable to work.

This is an increase from 10% on 16 December with an average unavailability of 14% from 24 to 27 December.

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The fire department said the situation was reaching a critical point, blaming the government’s cuts on the impact of the shortage, citing data showing that every fifth firefighter has left since 2010 and that an operational firefighter recruitment first for has recently been repealed.

“Omicron directly affects the level of fire and rescue coverage that Londoners receive,” said Regional Secretary Jon Lambe of Fire Brigades Union London.

“Over a third of the fire trucks that are not available are a huge shortage, which can have serious consequences.

“Omicron should not have an effect on this scale, however – the reason being that the London Fire Brigade has been left in a terrible state due to years of government cuts, with almost one in five of London’s firefighters being cut down since 2010.

“At the start of the pandemic, our members in London helped in every way possible, volunteering to drive ambulances and work in teams with multiple agencies dealing with Covid-related deaths.

“In some cases, members spent weeks away from their loved ones for fear of transmitting the virus.

“But now the table has been turned and the London Fire Brigade itself is in real difficulty.

“Now we see the real impact of the pandemic on our own service, and it has reached a critical point.

“London and London citizens pay their taxes for a level of service and fire coverage that they are denied due to government cuts and poor governance.

“As a union, we highlight this because it is simply not right and it is not safe.”


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