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Greater Manchester firefighters' dispute 'risks lives'

Greater Manchester firefighters' dispute 'risks lives'

Government inspectors said Greater Manchester relies on Merseyside fire crews to be mobilised in order for it to deal with a marauding terrorist attack
Lives could be at greater risk if Manchester is targeted by terrorists because a specialist fire service unit has shut, a watchdog says.Concerns about Manchester Fire and Rescue Service's (GMFRS) ability to respond to attacks were raised by government inspectors.The chief fire officer said it only applies to a marauding firearms attack.Employers and the government are to blame for a manpower dispute that sparked the closure, union bosses said.Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services said GMFRS has not had the capability to respond to some terror-related incidents since before Christmas because of the dispute.
Inspector of fire and rescue Zoe Billingham, said Greater Manchester has to rely on firefighters coming from Merseyside to provide specialist support, which could take up to an hour to be mobilised.
'Contingency in place'
"The delay in any emergency service responding to a terror attack could very well cost lives," she said.Jim Wallace, chief firearms officer, said crews in Greater Manchester can respond to all other forms of terror attack."It is important to stress that this applies to a very specific type of terrorist incident which is thankfully extremely rare," he said."But if it happens in Greater Manchester, we have a contingency in place where we can call on the support of colleagues on Merseyside in addition to our usual operational response."He also said the dispute with the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) was on a national level, "which is why we were unable to resolve it locally".
Analysis
Danny Shaw, Home Affairs CorrespondentAcross England and Wales, hundreds of firefighters have been specially trained and equipped to deal with a marauding gun attack. They'd be expected to put out fires and recover bodies in so-called 'warm zones' where terror activity has stopped but risks remain. In Greater Manchester, however, a dispute between the Fire Brigades Union and employers led to the unit being disbanded about six months ago.
The FBU said there needs to be "much wider planning" for such terror attacks.General secretary Matt Wrack, said: "We have been willing to take the necessary steps to bring firefighters in to the aftermath of terrorist incidents, with the essential protections in place."Responsibility for the delay in resolving this rests entirely with fire service employers and central Government who have been complacent throughout these discussions."A Home Office spokesman said the government was aware of the concerns around GMFRS."We are... working with them to reinstate a specialist team that will provide an immediate response to a terror attack with support from neighbouring services," he said.Any improvements required would be considered "very seriously" and all services would be expected to "make the necessary changes", the spokesman added.
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