WIGAN fire station was left short of cover for an entire day over the weekend, it was claimed today.
Outraged firefighters say they were forced to leave the Wigan end of the borough covered by just one fire engine and crew on Sunday as the one other was needed to cover incidents in Leigh.
The two-engine cover was alledgedly halved because of staff shortages. But bosses from Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service say that there was suitable cover for the borough that day.
They insisted that operationally the borough was being properly covered by fire stations surrounding the borough and challenged the claim that households had been put in any potential danger.
Responding to Fire Brigades Union (FBU) claims of a crisis in the service, borough manager Steve Sheridan, insisted there is enough cover for Wigan.
He said: “It’s common practice to move fire engines around to cover emergencies elsewhere in the region and it has been like that since the start.
“We have around 60 engines covering the region so that whenever an emergency does arrive there is always one on hand to reach it as soon as possible.
“In Greater Manchester we are managing it better than ever and have sufficient fire engines available to respond to all foreseeable risks.”
On Wednesday, FBU leaders say Wigan’s fire station had to send both of its engines to a fire in Horwich.
This meant a crew from Wythenshaw was brought in to cover the area.
And because of staff shortages, Wigan’s crew has also temporarily been reduced to just four firefighters to one engine.
FBU Divisional Secretary for Wigan and Bolton Borough, Mike Gregory, said: “To have just four firefighters covering the biggest area in Greater Manchester is outrageous.
“The people expect, and they deserve, quick response times to fires. The shortages not only puts lives at risk but it also increases the damage to property and it’s just worrying that it’s becoming a growing trend.
“Because crews are having to cover over areas more and more then there seems to be an inconsistency of service delivery. You can never predict when there will be a fire so there should be enough engines to cover an area at all times.”
The brigade is facing further cuts of £12m over the next two years.
There will be crisis talks held between fire and union chiefs to discuss a resolution to the dispute.
It has shed 338 firefighter posts since 2011 and now has 1,196. Fire chiefs explained that fire cover is organised on a county-wide basis. Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service is the second largest fire service in the country, covering an area of approximately 496 square miles and responding to an average of 55,000 emergencies each year.