THE firefighters' union has raised concerns that a shortage of fire crews and appliances could leave areas exposed.

FBU representatives say that with three appliances needed to attend a house fire - which happened at Keighley and Bingley recently - and only three crewed fire engines in Airedale, there are not enough resources available.

They fear if two or more incidents occur simultaneously, lives could be put in danger.

FEARS RAISED: Concern over cover

But the Commander for the Bradford District, Ben Bush, says he is confident the West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service has enough fire crews and appliances to deal with any eventuality.

Dave Gillian, Bradford Fire Brigades Union representative, said three pumps is the normal attendance for a fire with someone inside a property but with only one pump each at Keighley, Bingley and Shipley fire stations that means if there is another fire in the area that would leave the service short.

He said: "It literally leaves a vast area with no cover.

"For me it is a matter of time until something big happens..

"There used to be two appliances in Silsden, two in Keighley, one in Haworth, one in Bingley, two in Fairweather Green, two in Shipley, one in Idle and the retained stations at Ilkley and Otley had good availability.

"The amount of cover has been dramatically cut. The cuts were sold on an overall number of activities falling but they're now on the rise."

He said the continuing problems in recruiting retained firefighters in Ilkley and Otley meant Wharfedale often had to be covered as well.

He added that he also had health and safety concerns over proposals to reduce the number of crew on each appliance from five to four with watch manager numbers also reduced.

Mr Gillian added: "The minimum has become the standard, we're more stretched.

"The safety margins are being cut away. The fire authority and the public don't appear to be fully aware of the implications of these cuts on public and firefighter safety."

He said a flat fire in Keighley on one evening recently meant that there was no cover from Skipton to Leeds-Bradford Airport.

However, Mr Bush said he was aware of the shortages in the Wharfe Valley but he is confident that the service has enough cover.

He said: "I'm not worried because we have got 46 appliances including retained.

"We can see if there is sufficient fire cover across the map, there is always sufficient cover.

"For the flat fire in Bingley, there were four appliances sent - one each from Bingley, Keighley, Shipley and an aerial appliance from Bradford - and we had already put standby moves in.

"One of the Bradford appliances went to Keighley and Stanningley went to Bradford.

"When six fire engines are needed, that's classed as simultaneous activity and the control operators will be looking at cover.

"It's a challenge but we plan for simultaneous incidents with 20 fire appliances like the Drummonds Mill fire."

He said the proposal to reduce crews on appliances from five to four would involve switching the watch manager to a separate vehicle, who would arrive at the incident at the same time, would increase flexibility.

He added that it was a challenge to recruit retained firefighters but there are several on the current training course who would be added to the rotas at Silsden and Otley.

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