Union chief says fire crews in Essex are 'struggling' with the recent 'spike' in activity due to cuts

PUBLISHED: 15:51 26 July 2018 | UPDATED: 16:01 26 July 2018

The lorry fire on the M11 last week. Picture: COLIN SHEAD/ESSEX POLICE

The lorry fire on the M11 last week. Picture: COLIN SHEAD/ESSEX POLICE

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The eastern regional secretary for the Fire Brigade Union said crews are struggling with the recent "spike" in activity during the hot weather and added that cuts to the service meant firefighters are taking longer to reach incidents.

It comes as high temperatures have caused traffic chaos across Uttlesford in the last week after a series of vehicle fires on M11 near Saffron Walden.

Last Thursday, a lorry carrying 40 tonnes of hay burst into flames on the motorway, shutting the road between junction 8 and junction 10 for more than 12 hours.

Fire crews were called around 5pm and prevented the blaze from spreading to nearby fields.

The fire was put out by 3.30am on Friday morning and motorists faced a 30-mile diversion while emergency resurfacing works were carried out.

On Tuesday, a double-decker bus caught fire on the same stretch of the M11, causing more long delays for motorists.

Crews were called at about 1pm and found a coach was ablaze on the hard shoulder of the northbound carriageway.

The fire had spread to a nearby grass embankment. The road was closed while firefighters extinguished the fire.

In July so far, the highest temperature recorded in Saffron Walden was 34C and the area received just 5cm of rainfall.

Riccardo la Torre, eastern regional secretary for the Fire Brigade Union, said there has been a “spike” in activity during the hot weather and added that cuts to the service meant crews are taking longer to reach incidents.

“Across the east we’re struggling with this spike in activity - it’s frightening,” he said.

“It’s not unexpected to see a spike in summer, but we’ve lost 1,000 firefighters across the region since 2010, so it’s getting worse.

“It extends the time we take to get there and the later we get to a fire the more developed it is.

“It’s taking us longer to get to fires even during quieter times - so now it’s even worse. We don’t have the resources we used to. Crews from Essex are being called out to Suffolk, leaving Essex with less resources if there’s a big incident.

“The longer we take to get to a fire, the more damage there is to life and property.”

No one was hurt in the fires.

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