FIREFIGHTERS who battled a massive blaze on the docks in Liverpool have blamed government cuts to fire services for the fact that it took almost five days to extinguish the flames.
The inferno on Seaforth docks, north of the city, began on Friday night and was only put out at 2.50pm yesterday.
Speaking to the Star afterwards, Fire Brigades Union (FBU) Merseyside secretary Mark Rowe said: “This should have been a routine job.
“We had firefighters working five hours after the end of their shift because there’s not enough crews to rotate shifts. “So there were firefighters who had worked overnight leaving at 1pm the next day.”
He explained that the situation had become so desperate that crews from Greater Manchester crews had been sent to a house fire in the Liverpool suburb of Allerton at the weekend.
“Cuts costs lives and government cuts are not just putting lives at risk in future but are killing people now,” Mr Rowe warned.
He pointed out that, since 2010, Merseyside has lost 270 firefighters and 14 engines — down from 42 to 28 — and three stations, while deaths from fire-related incidents have trebled.
Mr Rowe said: “These cuts have all devastated our response times, which puts firefighters’ lives at risk too as they are forced to attend more developed fires.
“But what the government seems to fail to realise is that our work isn’t just about putting out fires. We are a multiagency that also deals with floods, people trapped in lifts or under trains, road traffic accidents, tunnels and ships.”
He welcomed Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s pledge to not only end fire service cuts but reverse those already made.
Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority told the Star that the cause of the docks fire was still being investigated.
Liverpool city councillor Dave Hanratty, who also chairs the authority, said: “The coalition and now this Conservative government have continually hit Merseyside hardest with pernicious cuts across vital public services.
“I am today calling on Tory ministers to address the funding crisis in our fire and rescue service before it’s too late and lives are lost.”
The Home Office, which took over responsibility for funding fire services from the Department for Communities and Local Government this year, had not responded at the time of going to press.