The lives of firefighters and members of the public are being put at risk as a result of “restrictive budgeting” that is compromising Jersey’s ability to deal with serious blazes, according to rescuers.
Fire and Rescue Service Association President Tim Le Cocq said that the “inevitability” of a similar incident to the Bristol tower block tragedy that killed one person and left eight in hospital this weekend is drawing “ever nearer” due to more people living in flats – but the island’s service is currently under-equipped to deal with such an incident.
In a social media post following the Bristol inferno, the Jersey FRSA pointed out the limited resources that the Jersey Fire and Rescue has compared to UK counterparts, with at least 27 firefighters required at a high-rise fire to operate safely.
Meanwhile, Jersey only has 11 firefighters on duty and five on-call at any given time – and this is assuming that none of the resources are being used to tackle other incidents on land or sea, or supporting what the FRSA described as an "overrun Ambulance service".
Mr Le Cocq explained to Express that the FRSA has "consistently raised concerns with Fire and Rescue Service management, Justice and Home Affairs officers and the Minister for Home Affairs, regarding the capacity and capability of the Service to ensure the safety of firefighters and the public alike" over a number of years to no avail.
"We are now in a position whereby restrictive budgeting is a priority over safety - safety provided in training, equipment and available personnel, which now directly contradicts the Service's own policies on safe crewing levels," he continued.
A £15,000 Peer Review of the Service was conducted earlier this year, which Mr Le Cocq claimed contains conclusions which "validate our repeated concerns on capacity, capability and resilience."
It was commissioned by Chief Fire Officer Paul Brown in January 2022, with desktop research undertaken in March, a three-day on-site visit in April and the final report being presented to the Home Affairs Minister in May.
While staff were provided with an overview of findings by Chief Fire Officer Alex Johnson, the lead reviewer for the Local Government Association and National Fire Chiefs Council, the full results have never been made public.
Pictured: "We do not expect the real cost to be the lives of firefighters or the public we serve."
"We cannot accept that simply waiting to become our own case study and only to react to a tragic event after it has occurred is appropriate," Mr Le Cocq added.
"Firefighters and Islanders have been exposed to this risk for too long already and with increased high-rise living the inevitability of a similar incident to that seen in Bristol this week gets ever nearer - but locally, the emergency response to it would be far weaker.
"Government has to step up to its obligations under health and safety legislation to provide the Fire and Rescue Service with the means to resource, equip and train firefighters to at least the minimum level that national good practice demands.
"While the FRSA recognises that nothing comes without a cost, we do not expect the real cost to be the lives of firefighters or the public we serve."
Express understands that the new Home Affairs Minister, Deputy Helen Miles, was given a copy of the report in July and verbally briefed by the Chief Fire Officer in mid-August.
Asked by Express when the Peer Review results would be made public, the Justice and Home Affairs Department said: "The Peer Review for SJFRS report will be released alongside the Ambulance Service Review (conducted by the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives) by the end of October.
"As with any review findings, it is important to brief Ministers and staff prior to external release and this is underway."
Express has contacted the Government for further comment and is awaiting a reply.
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