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‘Gaping holes’ in fire cover exposed by large increase in field fires, campaigners claim

PUBLISHED: 03:23 17 July 2018 | UPDATED: 03:23 17 July 2018

Phil Johnston, of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) Suffolk branch. Picture: ANDREW PAPWORTH

Phil Johnston, of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) Suffolk branch. Picture: ANDREW PAPWORTH

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A large increase in field fires during the hot weather is exposing a “gaping hole” in fire cover, the firefighters’ union claims.

Fire fighters on scene damping down the fire that had spread into the National Trust Pin Mill Plantation Picture: PAVEL KRICKAFire fighters on scene damping down the fire that had spread into the National Trust Pin Mill Plantation Picture: PAVEL KRICKA

The soaring temperatures have led to significantly more blazes across the county, with 17 fire crews tackling the latest in Chelmondiston yesterday as it spread to more than 15 acres of farmland.

Many fire crews remained on the scene for several hours as the warm conditions and strong winds helped the blaze to spread.

But leaders for the Fire Brigades Union in Suffolk say the rise in field blazes has only exposed the cuts to firefighter numbers which they previously campaigned against.

Phil Johnston, brigade secretary for the FBU in Suffolk - based in Lowestoft - said: “Field fires are going up and it does take up a lot of resource. It’s all very well if we have enough for the field fires but it leaves nothing else for any other incidents. It leaves a gaping hole in parts of the county where we have no resources.

Fire fighters on scene damping down the fire that had spread into the National Trust Pin Mill Plantation Picture: PAVEL KRICKAFire fighters on scene damping down the fire that had spread into the National Trust Pin Mill Plantation Picture: PAVEL KRICKA

“As well as firefighters needing resource, the public are not being served by the fire service due to the lack of resource.

“It is ultimately the public who are in danger. When the public are at risk, we need to be able to help. If we don’t have the resources, we can’t help them.”

Richard Rout, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for environment and public protection, said: “Much like the rest of the country, Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service is facing exceptionally challenging conditions this summer. But our well-trained, professional and dedicated firefighters and control staff are successfully managing and responding – using the latest technology, equipment and tactics to keep the communities of Suffolk safe.

“I think now is the time to be supportive and grateful for our exceptional firefighters, fire staff and partners that work so hard for our county. This includes farmers who support us when we need them.

The 4x4 vehicules that were helping get to the fire that had spread into the National Trust Pin Mill Plantation Picture: PAVEL KRICKAThe 4x4 vehicules that were helping get to the fire that had spread into the National Trust Pin Mill Plantation Picture: PAVEL KRICKA

“Suffolk Fire and Rescue will continue to do everything it can to protect Suffolk by investing in firefighter safety and providing the best equipment and training possible.”

The most recent round of cuts saw the number of on-call firefighters at Ipswich Princes Street Fire Station fall by 16, with another seven in total lost from Lowestoft, Ipswich East and Bury St Edmunds and three at Wrentham.

Mr Johnston said the increase in fires is often caused by things such as discarded cigarettes, barbecues in the open or machinery overheating and catching fire.

He urged members of the public to be extra vigilant about fires during the hot summer heatwave.

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