Nearly 1,000 firefighters from across the county travelled to Westminster yesterday to lobby parliament for better training, safety and staffing after a grim report revealed a sharp increase in on-duty deaths. Reporter Emma Clark joined Hertfordshire firefighters in London for the action day.

BETWEEN 2003 and 2007, 13 firefighters were killed in the UK, three of them in Hertfordshire.

Compared to a seven-year break in deaths up to 2003, the figures represent a dramatic increase.

But when seven firefighters alone died in 2007 the Fire Brigades Union decided "enough is enough" and commissioned a report into the deaths since 1978.

The Labour Research Department, which published the report last week, revealed a consistent failure in learning from past mistakes and a series of cost-cutting exercises putting firefighters in danger.

Following the report the FBU planned the lobby yesterday to urge the Government to sit up and listen and bring back guidance to protect the safety of firefighters.

Thirty men and women from Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service made the journey to London to join the lobby at Westminster Central Hall.

On the train journey to Westminster many repeated that the issues are "especially close to their hearts" because of recent firefighter deaths in the county. Hundreds of people packed the hall to listen to the FBU and the LRD declare what must now happen to ensure fatality numbers fall, while hundreds more who could not reach a seat waited outside.

The service has experienced a raft of budget cuts over several years culminating in the closure of Radlett and Bovingdon fire stations and the loss of 12 frontline firefighter posts from Hemel Hempstead, Watford and St Albans in 2005 – the same year that two Stevenage firefighters lost their lives at a high rise fire because the crews were unprepared.

The deaths of Jeff Wornham and Michael Miller at Harrow Court in Stevenage mimicked the two firefighter fatalities in Wales almost ten years before – which the FBU say proves the Government is failing in its duty to protect firefighters.

Since the deaths in 2005 Hertfordshire Fire Service resurrected a "hot" fire training facility – a previous one was closed because of complaints from neighbours. But alarmingly some firefighters claim to have never used the facility, only receiving a day's training in five years.

Another critical issue raised following the deaths was the revelation that their personal alarms – which firefighters can trigger if they are in danger or automatically react when the firefighter stops moving – do not work in heat over 150 degrees, which can reached standing next to a car fire. Yet the problem has still not been resolved.

Paul Mallaghan, a Stevenage firefighter, died while attending a car accident scene when another car crashed into him last year. The FBU says the service has a lack of Government guidance when dealing with these type of incidents.

Hertfordshire FBU secretary Tony Smith, a Garston firefighter from St Albans, led the county’s off-duty firefighters to the lobby.

He said: "Put simply, if there is not enough money then there is not enough training; not enough risk assessment; not enough frontline firefighters.

"Politicians have to realise that this is an essential service and it must be adequately funded.

“Enough is enough now.

“Firefighters are not receiving the training they critically need, and the Government is ignoring that.

“They have the facilities but not the staff or time to provide the training.

“The increase in deaths is unbelievable and firefighters are starting to wonder if it will be them next.

“It’s disgraceful that we’re not getting the safety training we need.

“It’s absolutely frustrating that it takes this for the Government to hear us.

“But it is very encouraging and we hope now that the Government will address the issues raised in the report immediately.”

A Hatfield firefighter who did not want to be named said: “We’re all getting disillusioned about our job because we’re not getting the support we need.

“The staff turnover is increasing all the time because people know the job is dangerous.

“In the last four years I’ve had one day of hot fire training which is crazy.

“We don’t have the time to train because we’re getting more pressure with the closure of stations and decreasing staff figures.”

Another firefighter said: “I have been a firefighter all my life and I’ve never experienced pressure like it is at the moment. I’ll be leaving soon because it is not worth it now.

“In Hertfordshire the service is prepared to send out crews of three to small incidents but the reality is you never know what you’re going to get until you get there.

“And when it turns out to be a much larger fire than they thought and there is just three of you, you face the huge moral dilemma of doing what you can and potentially risking your life, or waiting for back up and potentially watch someone die.

“It’s not fair that we’re put in positions like that to save a bit of money.

“I’ve been sent fires where two lads have gone in to a fire in breathing apparatus with barely three years' experience between them, which should never happen.”

St Albans MP Anne Main pledged her support to the firefighters after meeting them in Westminster after the lobby and signed an early day motion, lodged by Andrew Dismore, urging the Government to react to the report.

Mrs Main has also tabled a debate on the issue, adding that she is "staggered" to hear the unnecessary danger firefighters are put in because of the cut-backs.


  • A UK-wide system for recording firefighter fatalities and serious injuries,
  • Establishment of standard setting body that issues safety critical guidance and procedural advice. This follows the scrapping of guidance issuing in 2004.
  • Guarantee by the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) to provide sufficient resources for this body.
  • For the DCLG to work closely with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to spread best practice.


  • Learning lessons – that an independent body is set up to ensure findings of fatalities or serious injuries are considered and implemented.
  • Better investment in safety and training.
  • Improve emergency planning which currently is not adequate.
  • More investment in emergency response – to readdress the balance of emergency intervention and fire prevention.

The report can be read at