NFCC comment on latest Home Office workforce and prevention and protection statistics

The National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) has today described the continuing fall in firefighter numbers as ‘disappointing and unsustainable’. 

Statistics released by the Government show that, since 2009, the number of wholetime firefighters has decreased by 23 per cent.

Roy Wilsher, Chair of the NFCC, said:

“It is disappointing to see the continuing reduction in wholetime firefighter numbers. There has been a 23 per cent reduction in less than ten years, which is an unsustainable trend.

“It is encouraging to see that more women and people from other under-represented groups are choosing a career in the sector. However, rising proportions of women and people from other groups still need to be seen against the backdrop of overall numbers falling

“Fire and rescue services are doing some great work in attracting more diverse workforces, to truly represent the communities they serve – but we do acknowledge that more needs to, and can, be done.” 

The government has this morning published two sets of fire statistics for England for the year to 31 March 2018. 

The fire prevention and protection statistics focus on trends in smoke alarm ownership, firefighter safety and fire prevention and protection activities by fire and rescue services. 

The fire and rescue workforce and pensions statistics focus on workforce numbers, profiles and pensions.  

  • There were 32,340 full-time equivalent firefighters in post on 31 March 2018. This was a one per cent decrease compared with the previous year (32,761). Since 2009 the number of firefighters has decreased by 23 per cent.
  • Women accounted for 10.5 per cent of new firefighters in England in 2017/18, while 5.2 per cent came from ethnic minority groups. Women accounted for 5.7 per cent of all firefighters (5.2 per cent in 2017), while 4.1 per cent were from an ethnic minority group (up from 3.9 per cent). 

Roy Wilsher added:

“There is good news in the statistics, especially the targeting of fire safety work, but the fall in firefighter numbers continues to be worrying.

“Firefighters in England spent more than 994,000 hours helping people to live safely and independently at home. They’re focusing a greater proportion of Home Fire Safety Checks on vulnerable people, including the elderly and disabled, and spending longer with them.  

“These are the same firefighters who provide 999 emergency response, and it’s galling to see that there were 933 incidents involving them being attacked. This is the highest figure since data was first collected in 2010/11. 

“Such attacks on our professional, highly-skilled crews are beyond words. We welcome the longer jail terms for these offenders which will come in under the Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Bill.”

  • Although 95 per cent of households say they possess smoke alarms – the highest level ever recorded – five per cent fewer say their alarms actually work. 

Today’s figures also reveal a dramatic rise in the number of fire safety audits carried out on purpose-built flats of four storeys. They went up by 113 per cent, to 6,586 out of 49,423 audits overall (down nine per cent on 2016/17). 

However, the proportion of fire safety audits on purpose-built flats of four storeys or more that were deemed satisfactory fell from 78 per cent in 2016/17 to 69 per cent in 2017/18.

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