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Sunday, 12 July 2009

Tragedy in Edinburgh

A fire last night in Edinburgh has killed one fire fighter and injured several more. I have just listened to the news and heard the Firemaster saying that they had had to perform a number of rescues in the four storey building and the injuries occured when an internal floor collapsed.

In the time I spent in the fire service I saw a number of such events and can only give thanks that I have never had to break this sort of news to the wife/mother/girl friend/fiancee/partner of any of those serving in my Brigade. I have lost colleagues though in motor accidents and in neighbouring brigades, just not in my own. Something to give thanks for, yet, today, I find myself praying for a fallen colleague and for his colleagues and family as they come to terms with his loss.

These mounting losses in the fire and rescue services of the UK give the lie to the "modernisers" who tore up the rank structure, the training stratgies, the discipline codes and imposed a dumbing down which is now starting to bite. Just as in the Armed Forces cuts have also resulted in fewer people on the ground, the loss of experienced people and a loss of vital knowledge on the ground, something I encounter all to often in the classroom as I and others try to impart what we have learned - often through the harsh school of "battlefield" experience - and encounter blank stares when we raise the relationship of some concept with a basic piece of knowledge the trainees no longer get taught at recruit level or because they have 'parachuted' into a post without having any basic training at all.

That said, my sympathies lie entirely with the fire crews in Edinburgh, every loss is a death too many. Let us hope that this one will be the trigger for a reappraisal of the policies and practices that have led us to this position. In the meantime pray for those who have died, have been injured and those who mourn their passing.

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