According to new figures the number of Welsh firefighters has declined since last year, with figures now standing at between 7 and 19 per cent lower than 2010 across Wales – a fall of almost 450 firefighters.
Across the last year alone Wales has seen a decline of 44 firefighters.
Cerith Griffiths, the Fire Brigades Union’s Executive Council member for Wales, said that:
“The public should be able to rely on the fire and rescue service to be able to deal with fires in their homes, with wildfires, with floods, with fires in their businesses and schools, but we cannot do that if we do not have the people to do it. That is particularly true when it comes to multiple large-scale incidents happening at the same time.
“I want to be clear: after years of devastating cuts to our fire and rescue service, and a further decline this year, there is a genuine chance that our fire and rescue service will not be able to adequately meet the challenges facing our communities.”
The decline comes against a backdrop of increasing challenges for Welsh firefighters. Climate change can increase the risk of floods and wildfires, and just last week Welsh Climate Change minister Julie James AM said “Flood risk… is increasing as a result of climate change”. In June this year the Climate Change Committee said that Wales “can expect [wildfires] to become a major issue” if climate change continues unchecked.
Across the UK one in five firefighter roles which existed in 2010 no longer exist, with a fall in numbers of 11,598 since then.
Matt Wrack, general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, said:
“After years of huge government cuts and staffing falls, fire and rescue services in Wales are increasingly stretched. The cuts are weakening the day-to-day work of the fire and rescue service in every single area; they are making people less safe. They also pose a threat to the ability to respond to large-scale incidents – particularly if more than one were to occur at the same time.
“Our communities have the right to feel protected. We all want to be able to walk past fire stations and know that there are enough people in there to protect us. And firefighters will always do whatever they can to save lives. We need central government to end its attack on public service funding and we need the government in Wales to invest in our service for the new and emerging risks we face, including from climate change.”
The figures come from a freedom of information request from the Fire Brigades Union.