UPDATED: A number of firefighters have been taken ‘off the run’ after failing a newly introduced fitness test, which has resulted in some fire appliances becoming unavailable across the Isle of Wight.
Frontline members of the Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service – both wholetime and retained – are currently being put through their paces as normal. However, this new test is said to be more stringent in what it asks of the Island’s dedicated and experienced life-savers.
Island Echo understands at least 4 firefighters have been temporarily stood down at Newport Fire Station after failing the compulsory test, meaning the second appliance at Newport is now unavailable a lot of the time. This could also have a knock on effect to the availability of the station’s Aerial Ladder Platform and Incident Command Unit.
Yarmouth Fire Station’s appliance is now also unavailable as a number of firefighters at the West Wight station have failed the fitness test too. A crew from Freshwater attended Yarmouth town’s annual fireworks celebrations to provide safety cover on Monday.
Firefighters with decades of experience now face an uncertain future in the service as although they have been fighting fires, running out hoses and entering burning buildings right up to the test, the failure renders them inactive with immediate effect unless they can meet the requirements set out.
The Isle of Wight Council were approached by Island Echo on Wednesday and asked how many firefighters in total have been taken off the run and how many appliances are now unavailable as a result. Unfortunately, no figures have been produced after 48 hours but a statement has been released by the Council today (Friday).
Island Echo has been told that questions relating to the number of firefighters and appliances now off the run will be re-asked. In the meantime, sources say the number could be as high as 12 firefighters.
Howard Watts, Senior Officer for the Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service has said:
“It is widely recognised that the role of a firefighter involves a wide variety of tasks that can be both physically and mentally arduous, and often unpredictable in nature and duration. As such, an integral part of being able to perform the role of a firefighter safely and effectively is the maintenance of physical health and fitness.
“The IWC and IWFRS take the health and wellbeing of employees extremely seriously and offer a range of services to support their staff.
“All firefighters are encouraged to take action to prevent poor health and fitness so as to enable them to perform their role safely and efficiently.
“All firefighters undergo fitness testing and have regular medical tests. Any firefighter who falls below the safe standard is taken off operational duties and is given support to return to the required standard.
“The Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service always maintains safe levels of fire engines available to respond to emergencies. This is constantly monitored and changes on a dynamic basis.”
UPDATE WEDNESDAY – Island Echo has been told that the Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service is ‘not able to confirm numbers’ in relation to the number of firefighters that have been taken off the run. However, sources say the total currently sits at around 16.
The temporary reduction of between 15 and 20 firefighters means a number of appliances have been unavailable to respond to emergencies. Over the weekend there were, at times, only 5 appliances providing fire cover across the Isle of Wight.
A recent recruitment campaign for new retained firefighters is said to have resulted in just 3 potential recruits in the first wave, prior to medical and fitness tests.