Bedfordshire firefighters being called to more incidents not involving fires

Home Office data shows Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue responded to over 1,700 non-fire incidents

Firefighters in Bedfordshire are being called to an increasing number of incidents not involving fires, figures reveal.

The Fire Brigades Union said it has seen a surge in widespread flooding nationally, as crews “battle the sharp end of climate change”.

Home Office data shows Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service responded to 1,731 non-fire incidents in 2019-20.

Bedfordshire firefighters being called to more incidents not involving fires

That was a 14 per cent increase on the 1,513 attended a year earlier.

Meanwhile, firefighters were called to 1,871 fires last year – down 13 per cent on the year before.

Non-fire incidents are classed as anything other than fires and false alarms, including flooding incidents, road traffic collisions, animal assistance as well as suicide attempts, people being stranded, trapped, impaled and dealing with hazardous substances among others.

Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service was called to 5,920 incidents last year in total, with fires making up just 32% of these.

A spokesperson for Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue said: "Our mission here at BFRS is to provide outstanding prevention, protection and responsive service that help make Bedfordshire safer.

"We work tirelessly to prevent fires and in 2018 / 19 saw a reduction of 17.8% in the number of dwelling fires across Bedfordshire.

"The rise in non-fire incidents in Bedfordshire in 2018 / 19 was due to an increase in calls to support our Police and Ambulance colleagues.

"The role of the BFRS has evolved over many years and we have invested in expanding our capabilities so we can effectively respond to a wider range of emergencies.

"We will continue to adapt to the evolving risks we face in order to protect our communities."

Across England and Wales, fire crews responded to 172,000 incidents of this kind in 2019-20 – a 6 per cent rise compared to 2018-19, and 12 per cent compared to a decade ago.

Figures show the latest increase has been driven by crews attending more flooding and multi-agency incidents, which involve other emergency services.

Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: “We have seen a significant increase in flooding incidents, likely linked to the mass flooding emergencies across the country over last winter.

“Widespread flooding in the last year and recent wildfires have shown that firefighters are battling the sharp end of climate change.

"Their work should be properly recognised with a statutory duty to respond to floods in England and the proper funding of their service."

Nationally, crews responded to 557,299 callouts, a 3 per cent drop compared to the previous year.

An agreement reached in March allowed firefighters to drive ambulances and deliver vital supplies to the elderly and vulnerable as the coronavirus crisis took hold.

It was extended in June, meaning such activity will continue until the end of September at the earliest.

Mr Wrack continued: "Firefighters have always taken on a range of non-fire work and can be proud of stepping up during the coronavirus pandemic, all while still responding to fires and other emergencies."