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Home Secretary praises firefighters for tireless efforts during Coronavirus

11 August 2020

HOME SECRETARY Priti Patel has paid tribute to the work transacted by firefighters throughout the Coronavirus pandemic while on a scheduled visit to the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service.

The Home Secretary met with firefighters who’ve been on the front line during the pandemic and heard how their roles have adapted to deal with the challenges posed by the Coronavirus pandemic.

Throughout the pandemic, Fire and Rescue Service staff have taken on a range of additional duties to support the national effort to fight Coronavirus. Those duties have included delivering essential items to over 80,000 vulnerable people, fitting over 4,000 face masks for frontline NHS and care staff and transporting upwards of 3,000 non-COVID-19 patients to and from hospital. Those statistics have been collated by the National Fire Chiefs Council.

Priti Patel said: “Our brave firefighters have played a crucial part in our fight against Coronavirus. They’ve provided invaluable support to other Emergency Services personnel by assisting vulnerable people and NHS staff in addition to carrying out their own life-saving duties. I’m extremely grateful to them for their selfless service of our country.”

During her visit, the Home Secretary was briefed on Merseyside’s role in co-ordinating national resilience capabilities for Fire and Rescue Services across England and Wales. The Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service provides focused training to other fire authorities and maintains specialist vehicles and kit required to protect people and property in local and national emergencies. The Home Office is providing over £11 million in total funding for Merseyside’s role in national resilience work.

Response to disasters

Patel’s visit included a demonstration of how firefighters use high-volume pumps – which can pump 7,000 litres of water per minute – to respond to major flooding incidents, such as the Whaley Bridge dam breach in August last year. The Home Secretary also met with the urban search and rescue team to see how fire dogs are used to locate missing people following natural disasters and building collapses.

Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service’s Chief Fire Officer Phil Garrigan commented: “It’s fantastic to have the opportunity to show the Home Secretary some of the work we do here on Merseyside, both in our own right as a local Fire and Rescue Service and also as part of our national role in relation to the co-ordination and deployment of national Fire and Rescue Service assets.”           

Garrigan added: “We’ve also been able to show the Home Secretary how we’ve maintained our operational responsibilities despite the current pandemic and despite concurrent events taking place elsewhere. For example, the Home Secretary was able to see first-hand how we’re currently preparing our teams should they be needed to aid in the response to the terrible events in Beirut this week as part of the UK’s International Search and Rescue team.”           

Garrigan asserted that, throughout the pandemic, Fire and Rescue Services up and down the country have gone above and beyond the call of duty, helping to support the NHS and blue light colleagues wherever possible.           

“The way in which operational and non-operational staff have stepped up during this crisis is incredible,” he asserted, “but not in the least bit surprising. Locally, Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service staff have delivered thousands of prescription medications and hundreds of food parcels to those most in need. We’ve worked diligently with our local authority partners, housing associations and charities to ensure those most at risk have not been forgotten.”

Day-to-day duties           

Further, Garrigan explained: “We’ve continued our day-to-day work alongside these additional roles. We train for all scenarios, but could not have coped so well without our incredible staff. I’m very proud of them and we will continue to do everything we can to support our front line workers and our amazing NHS colleagues.”

To support the Fire and Rescue Service during the pandemic, the Home Office recently launched a £6 million Fire COVID-19 Contingency Fund. This will provide financial support to Fire and Rescue Authorities who incur significant costs as a result of taking on additional duties during the pandemic.

The Government has also provided £3.7 billion to local Government to support their response to the virus outbreak. This includes around £35 million for standalone Fire and Rescue Authorities. County councils and unitary authorities with responsibilities for fire have also received a share of the funding as part of a wider allocation that reflects the totality of their local Government responsibilities.