Firefighters are at risk and need to be coronavirus tested

Fire services are at risk of being put on a “dangerous knife-edge” as the coronavirus pandemic forces almost 3,000 workers to self-isolate, the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has warned.

Friday, 17th April 2020, 11:27 am

General secretary Matt Wrack said that while crews were currently maintaining services, this would become “increasingly difficult” as the virus spreads.

According to the FBU, the number of staff unable to work represents 5.1 per cent of the sector’s overall personnel of 58,426.

This includes just under 2,600 operational firefighters and control room staff self-isolating, out of a total of 48,295.

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The FBU also warned that fire control rooms, which handle 999 calls and have fewer staff, have been the worst-hit in some areas.

West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service has 15.9 per cent of its control room staff in isolation. The union is now calling for the Government to roll out testing to allow those who do not have coronavirus to return to work.

Mr Wrack said: “The Government is playing with fire by not testing firefighters and control room staff for coronavirus.

“Currently, crews are maintaining services, but this will become increasingly difficult as the virus spreads.

“There are already thousands of firefighters and control staff in self-isolation, only a fraction of which will have the disease.

“If we aren’t able to find out exactly who is infected, and more staff isolate unnecessarily, services will be put on a dangerous knife-edge.”

Fire crews have taken on extra tasks during the Covid-19 pandemic, including transporting personal protective equipment (PPE) and testing masks for frontline health workers to ensure they fit properly before use.