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More fires last year than for most of the last decade in England, says union

Union says firefighters have lost complete confidence in the government.

Firefighters’ leaders have accused the Government of putting the public at risk after new figures showed a rise in incidents.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) said that despite the increase, the Government continued to “starve” fire authorities of central funding.

Official figures showed there were 564,827 incidents in England in the past year, over 4,000 more than the previous 12 months.

Firefighters attended more than 167,000 fires, the most since 2011-12, said the FBU, adding that the long period of improvements in public safety has plateaued, with cuts the “most likely explanation.”

The union said that since 2010, one-in-five firefighter jobs have been cut, including around 10,000 in England.

Dave Green, FBU national officer said: “These dreadful new figures confirm firefighters’ worst fears. Austerity cuts are now damaging public safety. For years, politicians have slashed our service and excused their actions because long term improvements were still being made.

“Now their figures show the public is at greater risk. The Grenfell Tower fire should have been a wake-up call. The Westminster government should have reacted by investing in the fire and rescue service, but instead they just keep on cutting.

“Firefighters have lost complete confidence in this Tory government. They are putting the public at risk, while wrecking a well-respected, professional public service.”

While the number of firefighters is falling, the work of fire and rescue services has changed hugely in recent years Home Office spokesman

Karen Lee, shadow fire and emergencies minister, said: “With fire and rescue services attending thousands more incidents in the last year it’s clear we need investment not cuts to our services.

“Yet, the Tory cuts to our fire and rescue services continue. Government needs to act now to ensure public safety is not put at risk.

“Swingeing cuts to staffing and funding capacities means that our hard working fire service is once again expected to do more with less.

“The Tories’ flawed austerity programme must end. The next Labour government will recruit 3,000 more firefighters and ensure that the fire service is properly supported to keep our communities safe.”

A Home Office spokesman said: “While the number of firefighters is falling, the work of fire and rescue services has changed hugely in recent years.

“Over the past 10 years the total number of fire incidents in England has nearly halved – down 43% – and work to prevent fires from starting in the first place has seen real success.”

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