Omicron: The shortage of fire trucks in London is rising again

London has had over a third of its fire trucks inaccessible as Omicron hits the number of staff, new London Fire Brigade data shows.

The shortage reached 50 fire trucks during the day shift on December 25 and reached 42 for the day shift the day before. There are 142 fire trucks in the capital.

This marks an exacerbated problem after data for December 10 to 16 previously revealed that the shortage ran at a maximum of forty.

The new data, for the 24th-27th. December, shows that the shortage was constantly close to high during this period, when a majority of shifts experienced shortages of at least 40 fire trucks.

The shortage also includes a new 64-meter ladder, purchased after the Grenfell Tower disaster, which was not available on the night of the 24th and the day of the 25th.

These shortcomings come as Omicron has hit the capital and its fire and rescue service. Figures for December 27 revealed that Covid had left 740 operational firefighters who had either been tested positive or had to isolate themselves, meaning over 15% were unavailable for work.

This is an increase from 10% for the 16th of December and a level of at least 14% unavailability was present in the 24th-27th. December.

FBU London Regional Secretary Jon Lambe said:

“Omicron directly affects the level of fire and rescue coverage that Londoners receive: Over a third of the fire trucks that are not available are a huge shortage, which can have serious consequences.

However, Omicron should have no effect on this scale – the reason being that the London Fire Brigade has been left in a terrible state due to many years of government cuts, with almost one in five of London’s firefighters having been cut down since 2010.

At the beginning 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 is turned and the London Fire Brigade itself is in real trouble.

Now we see the real impact of the pandemic on our own service, and it has reached a critical point. Londoners and Londoners pay their taxes for a level of service and fire coverage that they are denied due to government cuts and poor governance.

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

Fire department union data[1] shows that since 2010 London has lost almost one in five of its firefighters – well over 1,110 – and an operational stop to firefighters in the service has only just been lifted.

In addition, there are fears that staffing levels could grow even worse, with a potential “mass exodus” of hundreds of employees ahead of pension changes in the new year.

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