Councillors in south-west Shropshire are getting concerned that they could lose fire cover if firefighters are not vaccinated urgently. New rules have been introduced that require firefighters to self-isolate for ten days if they have been in contact with someone who has tested positive with Covid-19. That could decimate fire cover in rural areas of Shropshire and take out entire stations.
Andy Boddington, Shropshire Councillor for Ludlow North explains:
"I have been contacted by a number of retained firefighters over the last few days. They are concerned that if one member of the crew on a shout has a positive test the rest are put into self-isolation. They are concerned that Ludlow and surrounding areas may have to rely on fire crews from further afield. They say that will increase the risk to life and could increase injuries and distress.
"There are 16 retained firefighters working with the full-time team in Ludlow. They go out nine at a time. All these firefighters could all be asked to stand down if one person at the station tests positive.
"Their work has grown during the pandemic. They are being called out to help the ambulance service. They are being called out to help people in difficulty. They are being called out for fires. They want to keep doing this but need to be protected so they can continue doing so.
"The firefighters are concerned that paramedics attending, though vaccinated, could still spread the disease.
"There is a straightforward solution to this. Treat firefighters as frontline workers and get them vaccinated as quickly as we can."
Nigel Hartin is Shropshire Councillor for Clun and a member of the Shropshire and Telford and Wrekin Fire Authority:
"Clun and Bishop's Castle are small fire stations that are vitally important to south-west Shropshire. All our firefighters in rural stations are retained. They have jobs that they must leave at a moment's notice to ensure that people and property are safe.
"It takes time for a fire engine to even get to some properties in south-west Shropshire even with crews that know the local geography and the twisting country lanes. If local crews are self-isolating and fire engines must travel from a long distance, there is a greater risk of properties being razed to the ground, with consequent risk to life".
"I will be raising this with the Fire Authority. But we need to act immediately to ensure our firefighters are protected from this rapidly spreading virus. Crews can be called on a moment's notice to save lives. It's only right that we protect the men and women who put their own lives at risk to save others."