Tuesday, 10 July 2012

999 - Gets the Fire Brigade in 4 Minutes

I have been trying to work out how I could introduce the plans to close our local Inner East Fire Stations at Gipton and Stanks back into the COVEN blog without  seeming to sound like a broken record and an obsessed mad woman. Fortunately fate has offered me an opportunity to let rip and explain again why closing a very high risk station like Gipton and its medium risk partner at Stanks is wrong  and a badly thought through idea.


Last night (Monday 9th July) at about 8:20pm I noticed a youth go into the bin yard across the road from my house and do the strangest thing. He took a bag of rubbish out of the bin! So I kept watching and he took another bag of rubbish out of the bin, and then put his hood up. As we are constantly told at our local PACT meetings to note the clothes potential suspects wear etc I grabbed my camera and tried to take a picture “discreetly” from round the curtains. By this time another older man had joined the hooded  youth and was watching whilst the youth was still in the yard with his hood up. 
By now I had decided that something distinctly dodgy was going on so I turned to find my phone with the intention of dialling 101 and reporting the suspicious activity to the local police. However when I turned back to the window black smoke was billowing up and the people had gone. So instead I dialled 999 and asked for the fire brigade. After a few questions – was the fire near houses, was there stuff nearby to that might catch fire they said an engine had been dispatched.
By now a few neighbours had come outside as the culprits had put rubbish behind a double mattress, leant the mattress up against the wall to make a tent, and put two black bins leaning against the mattress and it was smoking badly, nasty black tarry smoke.
At this point I would like to have said I leaped over the wall in a single bound – but I didn’t I ran round the long way as the yard entrance was in the next street and pulled the bins away so they didn’t catch fire.  Then other neighbours chucked water on the fire and tipped the mattress away from the wall, we made quite a good team to be honest.
The fire engine arrived and the fire fighters damped down the mattress and made everything safe. The entire incident was over in probably 7 minutes, with the minimum of damage and nobody hurt.

The binyard wall after the mattress was removed
BUT>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
 All of the above took place when we have a fire station - properly staffed and resourced at Gipton which got to East End Park in FOUR MINUTES.
In about a couple of years time if things go according to WYFRS plans we will not have a fire station 4 minutes away from East End Park  – but  nearly two  miles (and several sets of junctions and traffic lights) further up York Road. And instead  of having three engines at our disposal – 2 at Gipton and 1 at Stanks we will only have two based at probably South Seacroft by the police station. And they won’t be getting to us in 4 minutes but nearer to SEVEN.

In fact by then a bin fire will probably not even warrant a proper engine turning out – it will be a Fire Response Unit (FRU) which are basically transit vans equipped for putting out small fires.
How small is small – about as long as a piece of string I reckon !!!!!  

A outside mattress fire is probably small, a mattress with two bins laid on top is nearer a bonfire, and next to housing is a disaster waiting to happen.  According to the Fire Brigades Union sending an FRU can be a disaster. For a start we wont have an FRU in our area - it will be based at MOORTOWN. And this unit will not be just for our area but for the entire District of Leeds. It is only able to deal with small fires and if it cannot cope - or more likely in my opinion the fire had spread to other areas it will be of little or no use when it eventually arrives and will have to immediately call for back up.

So if last night  we hadnt got the bins away and the fire out ourselves, in four minutes when Gipton arrived there would have been a decent sized fire right next to a house.( i have experienced bins going up before they burn furiously)  In the future had i rang to say a mattress was on fire - an FRU would have been sent, hopefully from Moortown, but if it was elsewhere in the city because of an ongoing call out  it would have to come from further away.
I only moved the bins because i considered it safe to do so. If there had been even an ounce of doubt for my safety from flame or smoke inhalation i would have let them burn and left it to the professionals;  and fortunately at the moment those fire fighters will arrive at my door within in four minutes - but with the cuts in service and stations agreed by a LABOUR  controlled fire authority are allowed to take place, small binyard fires may lead to tragedies. Fires think big but most fires start small and ones like this started by arsonists are neither predictable or preventable.

Bins -  be they black, brown or green are extremely replaceable - peoples lives aren't. And i wouldn't harp on about this continually unless i genuinely hand on heart thought that the West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue proposals to reduce fire fighter headcount and engine provision was extremely unresponsible and downright dangerous.



The mattress after only being on fire for approx 3 mins.
I reiterate what i said at the beginning - Gipton is a low cost - very high risk station, in these times of austerity and belt tightening why close her.  I think perhaps it is time for the community of East Leeds to commence lobbying again to ensure that we keep our local stations and fire fighters at a decent strength  - how councillors can cut public sector jobs whilst wasting millions on Private Finance Initiatives is beyond me. 

Perhaps we can start by demanding to be allowed to celebrate her 75th Birthday in October - as it stands at the momement it is a private party - well COVEN will be sending them a birthday cake to help the party go with a swing,  but it seems to me if WYFRS weren't ashamed of what they are doing they would throw open their doors and show the public what a magnificent piece of architecture she is and celebrate 75yrs of history with the community.

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