FIREFIGHTERS faced with a shortage of part-time officers to support them are also having to do the job with fewer vehicles than a neighbouring region with a smaller population, it has been claimed.
Last week, fire chiefs with Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service (MWWFRS) admitted they faced crewing "challenges", particularly in Neath Port Talbot and Swansea, after serving officers claimed up to 21 appliances were not fully manned, and might not be for the immediate future.
To meet the shortage, community and business fire safety officers, whose job it is to advise and educate about fire prevention, have been drafted in to some stations to cover shortfalls — leading to the Fire Brigades Union issuing a safety critical notice to MWWFRS, because it claimed some of those officers were not fully compliant with health and safety guidelines — although service managers have insisted they are all "fully competent operational firefighters".
The FBU has declined to comment, because it is in negotiations with MWWFRS management over a review into cuts that management want to make to full-time frontline firefighters.
But the FBU has produced a document, which it has sourced from Welsh Assembly figures, which suggests the number of fire appliances in Swansea is half that of Rhondda Cynon Taf — despite the city and county having a greater population.
The document was provided to the Evening Post by Clydach Councillor Gordon Walker, a former firefighter of more than 30 years' experience.
He said: "It is absurd that Swansea is getting far fewer than Rhondda Cynon Taff."
According to the document, there are six fire engines to cover Swansea's 239,000 population, with three other supporting vehicles. Rhondda Cynon Taf, population 231,000, has 13 fire engines, and nine other supporting vehicles.
Carmarthenshire (population: 183,000) has 13 fire engines and five supporting vehicles. Neath Port Talbot (population: 139,800) has seven fire engines and two supporting vehicles.
But Deputy Chief Fire Officer Paul Bates said: "While the two areas have similar population, the areas are very different in risk terms. For example, Swansea covers 378km squared and Rhondda Cynon Taf 424km squared. Different demographics, different infrastructure and different risk require different methods."