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Fears over fire engines on call.

Byline: By Tony Collins

WORRYING print-outs shown to the Birmingham Mail reveal that on some days more than a third of West Midland fire engines are allegedly unavailable due to a brigade shake up.

A senior West Midlands firefighter said that the print-outs indicated the service was sometimes so stretched that a tragedy was waiting to happen.

The fire officer, who does not want to be identified, has provided print-outs from the brigades computers for several times during the past week.

Despite West Midland fire chiefs previously declining to talk numbers, they indicate that 27 engines were off run at 8.10am on Saturday, September 24More recently, there were 20 appliances unavailable at 6.39am last Tuesday .

The print-out for Tuesday reveals that the two engines normally available at both Solihull and Smethwick fire stations were off run. They later received single crew cover from Ward End and Northfield.

The firefighter said: "They know it isn't working but they just keep denying it. It's an absolute farce.

"We have been fortunate so far, but it's got to eventually end in a tragedy. To suddenly have a third of 60 engines off run means it's bound to.

"The record so far is 29 off the run since September 9 when the shift changes came in.

A West Midlands Fire Service spokeswoman denied that the shift changes were putting people at risk.

"However many there are off the run, we are confident we are providing adequate emergency cover," she said. "The fact that a fire engine isn't at a particular station for any reason doesn't mean there isn't cover for the area. "We have already acknowledged there are problems with the run caused by the shift change over, but we don't work on a station by station basis. It's looked at as a West Midlands issue."

The changes mean 13 engines are routinely taken off the run between midnight and 8am because fire chiefs say there are not enough calls to justify them.

"If a screen shows, say 28 off run, you automatically take 13 out because they are meant to be off run," she added. "The others could be due to a variety of reasons

What do you think about the changes to the fire service

Are you worried that the brigade shift changes may be putting lives at risk?

Write to Birmingham Mail, PO BOX 78, Weaman Street, Birmingham, B4 6AY or send an email to
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Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Date:Oct 3, 2005
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