An official document reveals how London Fire Brigade managers misled the public over the seriousness of a fire in Dagenham during a strike by firefighters, the Fire Brigades Union in London has said.
During industrial action over pensions on 2 November last year, firefighters were criticised by local fire chiefs and government ministers when they questioned whether a fire in a scrap metal yard in Dagenham qualified as a major incident.
Paul Embery, secretary for the FBU in London, said: â€œThe London Fire Brigade hoodwinked their own firefighters and the public over a run-of-the-mill scrap yard fire because they doubted the ability of their strikebreakers to cope.
â€œThis was an underhanded attempt to trick London firefighters into leaving picket lines during a period of lawful FBU strike action.
â€œThe withering criticisms of the union and its members have now been shown to be unfounded and those who issued them â€” including senior fire service figures and government politicians â€” must now hold their hands up and apologise for their actions.â€
Firefighters had agreed ahead of the strike that they could voluntarily return to work if an incident fits the official emergency service criteria for serious: usually events such as train crashes, terrorist attacks or large fires that pose a serious threat to life.
But the police commanderâ€™s log for the incident, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act and passed to the FBU in London, reveals:
-Â The police commander received a direct request from the London Fire Brigade for the incident to be declared â€˜majorâ€™.
- Â A senior brigade officer admitted to the police that the incident was not a major one in terms of firefighting
- Â That senior brigade officer then suggested that a major incident should still be declared because of â€˜everything on the peripheryâ€™
- Â After hearing these representations from the brigade, the prospect of the impending strike helped to â€˜galvaniseâ€™ the police commander into declaring a major incident
- Â The major incident declaration was rescinded shortly after the strike ended and professional firefighters returned to the scene, as the police commander felt then that operational assurances were back in place.
You can find more information on the FBU Londonâ€™s page at www.london.fbu.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/106.pdf