Concern at fire service staffing levels due to coronavirus pandemic
A whistleblower said Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS) urgently required more front-line employees as crews are being stretched too thin.
They said on Wednesday one crew which would normally have been at Atherton station was redeployed to Bolton and expected to cover both areas.
And on the same shift between 8.30am and 7pm a fire engine usually stationed at Hindley was sent to Leigh, with crews again having to work between the two areas depending on the incidents which came in to the fire service .
GMFRS said there was a confirmed case of Covid-19 at Wigan’s fire station which meant some crews there were self-isolating for 14 days.
However, crews are now working in bubbles which it is hoped will reduce absences.
But with the prospect of months of restrictions to fight the virus alarm bells are ringing on the front line.
The whistleblower said: “This is the first time we’ve known that people are being moved out of a station and sent to another. They then have to come back to provide cover.
“This could become a regular occurrence. I don’t think it will be a one-off.
“Normally there are three pumps covering Bolton and Atherton, on Wednesday there were two. It shouldn’t be happening.
“They should be able to cope with extraneous circumstances.
“They just don’t have the staffing levels to man the fire pumps adequately.”
A GMFRS spokesperson said: “We have seen a rise in the number of Covid-19 cases and related absences in the past few weeks. Last week a spike occurred at Wigan Fire Station, which resulted in a number of operational staff having to self-isolate.
“We are supporting those affected and have put measures in place to ensure we maintain the appropriate number of fire engines ready to respond in Wigan, and across Greater Manchester.
“We have also introduced a number of crewing bubbles to minimise the number of different fire stations that our firefighters are visiting.
“We are following guidance from Public Health England and are doing everything we can to limit the impact of Covid-19 on GMFRS.”