A while ago, we published some comments from Riccardo la Torre, a firefighter based at Basildon fire station and an Essex FBU officer on the dangerous impact austerity cuts are making on the fire service: A snapshot of austerity. This week, the Yellow Advertiser* have conducted an interview with Riccardo in which he outlines in some detail how precarious things are as a result of the cuts: SPECIAL REPORT: Basildon firefighter claims local lives are at risk as Essex brigade struggles to cope after cutbacks.

Despite the blustering of the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner Roger Hirst and Tory councillor, Tony Hedley who chaired the Essex Fire Authority for a decade until last year, the truth is that resources have been cut to meet the lowest predicted demand level. All done in the name of ‘efficiency’. It all depends on what is actually meant by the word ‘efficiency’ doesn’t it?

Most sensible people would agree that means the service having the resources at its disposal in terms of fire fighters and equipment to be able to deal with those times when the number of incidents they have to respond to rises above the predicted demand. The bean counters see ‘efficiency’ as being able to deliver the government’s austerity agenda while giving the impression of still being able to deliver a fire service.

The Yellow Advertiser covers what happened on the night of August 3rd when the fire service had to deal with fires in Benfleet, then Canvey and then Pitsea. They were dangerously stretched on one night dealing with what Riccardo described as the ‘bread and butter’ work of dealing with house fires. If the fire service was stretched dealing with house fires, what would happen if a major incident occurred simply doesn’t bear thinking about.

We’re not just talking about people losing their homes in a fire which is traumatic enough, we’re talking about lives potentially being lost if the fire service can’t respond quickly enough. This is the stark reality of ten years of austerity where services have been cut back so much, we cannot rely upon them in the way we could done in the past. To put it bluntly, we’re all being thrown under the bus by the bean counters who cannot see anything beyond the bottom line of a financial spreadsheet.

* A heads up to the Yellow Advertiser and their chief reporter, Charles Thomson in particular. As well as this story, they’ve covered the rubbish collection and flytipping issues on the Vange Hill Estate and have a story coming up on the situation at Brooke House. Along with the Thurrock Independent, it looks as though we’ve got two local papers who have their finger on the pulse and are doing some proper journalism.