The government must declare a climate emergency and recognise the role of firefighters in tackling the consequences, the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has said.
Firefighters will join a rally outside Parliament, calling on MPs to back the Labour party’s motion to declare a climate emergency. Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, will address campaigners from across the environmental and labour movements from the top of the union’s fire engine.
The UK has already experienced more wildfires in 2019 than any year on record – and it’s only May.
Firefighters have tackled blazes across Cornwall, Dorset, Derbyshire, Northern Ireland, the Peak District, Rotherham, West Yorkshire, Wiltshire and Wales. The blazes have stretched already limited resources, with a fifth of firefighter jobs cut since 2010.
Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: “Firefighters are on the frontline fighting the consequences of climate change. It’s firefighters who are tackling wildfires and rescuing people stranded in flooding as weather becomes more extreme. The government need to recognise and properly fund their role. “The public are calling for politicians to take decisive action. Our countryside is burning and people’s homes are facing flooding. Firefighters know an emergency when they see one. It couldn’t be clearer – we need to declare a climate emergency.”
In Winter 2015/16, 17,000 properties were flooded in the North of England. Two years earlier 11,000 homes were flooded across the country. Firefighters worked around the clock saving lives, helping communities and providing humanitarian support.
Fire and rescue services have a statutory duty to respond to flooding in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Crews across England also respond to flooding incidents, but the Westminster government have refused to make it part of their core role.
Climate-related demands are adding to growing pressure on fire and rescue services across the UK, yet central government funding has been cut by a further 15% this year. Last year saw a 3% increase in fires and a 1% increase in overall incidents attended by firefighters. Firefighters rescued over 45,000 people last year, 4% more than the year before.