Published: 08:27, 05 September 2019
| Updated: 10:53, 05 September 2019
There are 462 fewer firefighters in Kent compared to nine years ago.
The figure has been revealed by the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), which claims the crisis is due to "chronic underfunding" from the Government.
The union revealed that nationally posts increased by 318 between 2018-2019, including an extra 37 positions in Kent.
But this 1% increase means there are still nearly 11,500 fewer UK firefighters than in 2010.
In the same time frame there has been a 19% cut in frontline firefighters nationally, with every brigade in the UK seeing a decrease in numbers.
Around 8,000 of the jobs cut since 2010 are fulltime firefighters, while 3,000 retained (on-call) firefighters have also been cut.
And around a quarter of fire control staff, who take the emergency calls and mobilise fire crews, have been lost.
In addition, overall spending on UK fire and rescue services has fallen by 38% since 2005.
Now, the FBU is urgently calling for the government to fund firefighter recruitment and reverse a decade of "severe cuts to fire and rescue services".
Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: "Fire and rescue services are in crisis after years of brutal cuts - and this year’s measly increase in posts is wholly insufficient to plug the gaps.
"We cannot allow firefighters’ life-saving work to go unrecognised.
"The Chancellor must fund firefighter recruitment and end the years of real-term pay cuts for firefighters.
"Our communities need more firefighters - and the government needs to reflect the work they do in their pay cheques."
The data also reveals that fires are on the rise - with a 10% spike in England and an 8% spike in Northern Ireland over the last year, after wildfires tore across the country.
The latest data for Wales saw a 3% increase in fires, while Scotland saw a 4% decline in fires.
Out of the 45,653 people rescued by UK firefighters last year, 41,771 were from non-fire incidents, such as flooding, road traffic collisions, height rescues, lift rescues, and hazardous chemical spillages.
Mr Wrack added: "The Whaley Bridge dam collapse saw fire and rescue services stretched to the limit. Firefighters were pulled from every brigade in the region, and from as far as Chichester and London.
"If this government is serious about tackling the climate emergency, it needs to invest in our frontline defences – and it is firefighters who are tackling wildfires and rescuing people stranded in flooding.
"Whaley Bridge will not be the last extreme weather event to stretch fire and rescue resources."
Despite the drastic reduction Kent Fire and Rescue Service says it is happy with the number of firefighters it has.
Chief executive Ann Millington said: “Our key priority will always be keeping people safe, and we’re proud to provide the county with a robust and efficient fire and rescue service.
"Our crews, both whole-time and on-call firefighters, are highly competent and highly committed, and we are confident we have the staffing and resources needed to keep the county safe.
"This was reflected in a recent independent inspection by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services, which found KFRS to be ‘good’ in three key areas, including emergency response and protecting the public - making us one of the top performing services in the country.
“In recent years, firefighter numbers reduced through natural wastage as people reached retirement, not through redundancies, and due to our new flexi-rostering shift system we were able to deliver the same level of cover with fewer overall firefighters.
“We did however recruit more whole-time firefighters in 2016, and from that process three cohorts of new recruits are now either working as operational firefighters across Kent, or are completing their training.
“While we don’t need to recruit anymore whole-time firefighters at the moment, on-call recruitment for stations across the county continues to be ongoing. Anyone interested in finding out more can visit our website – www.kent.fire-uk.org."
More by this authorSam Williams