Fire chief: 'Roadworks to blame for fire response time, not strike'

The Northern Echo: FIRE DAMAGED: Properties in Aldborough Walk, Darlington, which were damaged in a fire on Saturday afternoon. Picture: CHRIS BOOTH FIRE DAMAGED: Properties in Aldborough Walk, Darlington, which were damaged in a fire on Saturday afternoon. Picture: CHRIS BOOTH

ROADWORKS - rather than a firefighters' strike - were last night blamed for the time taken for help to reach a blaze that cost a family all their possessions.

Two young men have been arrested on suspicion of arson after a fire in the back yard of a house in Darlington took hold and spread to neighbouring homes.

They have been released on bail pending further investigation into what caused the fire in Aldborough Walk, in the Lascelles Park area of the town, on Saturday (June 21).

No one was injured in the blaze, which was reported shortly after 4.35pm - less than half an hour before the latest strike by members of the Fire Brigade Union (FBU) was due to end.

One woman whose house was damaged said she and her daughters had ‘lost everything except the clothes we stand up in’.

Because lives were not considered to be at risk, striking officers were not asked to resume work.

A 'resilience crew' of professional firefighters, put in place by County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service to deal with incidents during the strike, was dispatched.

Those who had been on strike joined efforts to extinguish the blaze when the industrial action ended at 5pm.

Fire crews were at the scene for much of Saturday evening and a police presence was maintained in the area on Sunday.

Neighbours made a flurry of 999 calls as the flames spread, with many questioning whether the response time was related to the strike.

Deputy chief fire officer Stuart Errington said the response time was 'slightly longer' than usual, but blamed the ongoing roadworks on Darlington's inner ring road, close to the town's fire station.

He said: "The reason that the response time was slightly longer was roadworks in the centre of town and we were getting conflicting information about the address of the incident; there was three or four different addresses given."

Mr Errington rejected the claims of some eyewitnesses that the response time was longer the brigade's seven-minute target.

He added: "I would not accept that the response time was any longer than it would have been had it been business as usual.

"I am confident that, had we asked the staff to break the strike in a 'persons reported' incident, they would have done."

The end-terrace home, which was not occupied, suffered serious damage and seems likely to be demolished.

Neighbours are rallying round to help the family in the neighbouring property who said they had lost everything. There has been talk of a collection for their benefit.

The householder in the property at the other end of the four-house block, was one of several to raise the alarm.

She could only watch and pray that the flames would not spread as far as her home.

The woman, who asked not to be named, said: "I was terrified, I got myself outside and just stood watching the fire creep towards the house. It was horrendous."

Hers was the only one of the four to escape without damage.

Saturday's strike was the 14th period of industrial action by FBU members since September.

The union is locked in a dispute with the Government over controversial pension scheme proposals and plans to raise firefighters' retirement age to 60.

The fire was one of a handful of incidents reported across County Durham and Darlington during the strike.

Others included house fires in Barnard Castle, Shildon and Consett and a fire in the plant room of a hotel in Durham.

Mr Errington said: "While our resilience plans have worked well, for a period of time our resources were stretched as we dealt with the large fire in Darlington and a number of other incidents at the same time.

"I would like to thank all of our staff: resilience officers, normal fire crews and control room operators, who worked really hard in difficult circumstances to deal with these incidents successfully."

Comments (16)

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7:31am Mon 23 Jun 14

greenfinger says...

All that money in council tax and they won't attend quick enough.
All that money in council tax and they won't attend quick enough. greenfinger
  • Score: -41

10:58am Mon 23 Jun 14

thetruthyoucanthandlethetruth says...

I wouldn't like to be in the back of an ambulance or in need of a fire engine lets put it that way. This Councils anti-car policies and willful neglect of our road system is now coming to fruition and it's only a matter of time before lives are being lost as a direct result of the state of the roads and road network.

Potholes, chicanes, speed-bumps, cars being allowed to park on both sides of narrow streets, pedestrian crossings every hundred meters, buses (or rolling road blocks as I like to refer to them as), you name it...It all adds up to very unpleasant driving conditions in and around this town.
I wouldn't like to be in the back of an ambulance or in need of a fire engine lets put it that way. This Councils anti-car policies and willful neglect of our road system is now coming to fruition and it's only a matter of time before lives are being lost as a direct result of the state of the roads and road network. Potholes, chicanes, speed-bumps, cars being allowed to park on both sides of narrow streets, pedestrian crossings every hundred meters, buses (or rolling road blocks as I like to refer to them as), you name it...It all adds up to very unpleasant driving conditions in and around this town. thetruthyoucanthandlethetruth
  • Score: 17

11:17am Mon 23 Jun 14

think twice says...

We know what is meant, but don't keep implying no-one was "injured" when a family has lost everything they own. Given a choice I'd rather have a broken leg jumping from a window than watch my house burn down because the fire service considered I was not in any physical danger.
Cannot the fire service exit from the rear of the station when beneficial whilst the road works are restricting the traffic?
We know what is meant, but don't keep implying no-one was "injured" when a family has lost everything they own. Given a choice I'd rather have a broken leg jumping from a window than watch my house burn down because the fire service considered I was not in any physical danger. Cannot the fire service exit from the rear of the station when beneficial whilst the road works are restricting the traffic? think twice
  • Score: 6

11:46am Mon 23 Jun 14

StanLaurels_CamelToe says...

think twice wrote:
We know what is meant, but don't keep implying no-one was "injured" when a family has lost everything they own. Given a choice I'd rather have a broken leg jumping from a window than watch my house burn down because the fire service considered I was not in any physical danger.
Cannot the fire service exit from the rear of the station when beneficial whilst the road works are restricting the traffic?
The fire service were running on 4-5 appliances (maximum) due to the strike action. There were house fires in Barnard Castle and Shildon, as well as a plant fire at a hotel. All of these are calls that require a minimum of 2 appliances, usually 3 - 4.

The roadworks excuse is a load of tosh. Many readers will know that the roadworks, whilst a pain are perfectly driveable. The only thing that would hold them up would be if the switch for blue lights had broken??

This is a Fire Officer making any excuse possible to avoid the truth of

"My contingency arrangements were wholly inadequate"
[quote][p][bold]think twice[/bold] wrote: We know what is meant, but don't keep implying no-one was "injured" when a family has lost everything they own. Given a choice I'd rather have a broken leg jumping from a window than watch my house burn down because the fire service considered I was not in any physical danger. Cannot the fire service exit from the rear of the station when beneficial whilst the road works are restricting the traffic?[/p][/quote]The fire service were running on 4-5 appliances (maximum) due to the strike action. There were house fires in Barnard Castle and Shildon, as well as a plant fire at a hotel. All of these are calls that require a minimum of 2 appliances, usually 3 - 4. The roadworks excuse is a load of tosh. Many readers will know that the roadworks, whilst a pain are perfectly driveable. The only thing that would hold them up would be if the switch for blue lights had broken?? This is a Fire Officer making any excuse possible to avoid the truth of "My contingency arrangements were wholly inadequate" StanLaurels_CamelToe
  • Score: 2

12:18pm Mon 23 Jun 14

Julio's mate says...

The Fire officer in question knows very well that the local knowledge of the striking firemen would have augmented the satnav system they use, and would have enabled the crews to attend this fire a lot quicker than the contractors/strikebr
eakers, who rely wholly on the satnav
Fire officers undergo media training and statements are carefully measured to completely avoid any negative information to the public. always maintaining that things are under control.
And if you believe THAT....
The Fire officer in question knows very well that the local knowledge of the striking firemen would have augmented the satnav system they use, and would have enabled the crews to attend this fire a lot quicker than the contractors/strikebr eakers, who rely wholly on the satnav Fire officers undergo media training and statements are carefully measured to completely avoid any negative information to the public. always maintaining that things are under control. And if you believe THAT.... Julio's mate
  • Score: 9

12:54pm Mon 23 Jun 14

RealLivin says...

Any one who knows the town knows that there are only two ways into this area, Yarm road and the by pass, using Neasham rd and Geneva rd, with the by pass closed for road works and all traffic routed via the road works in the town I am surprised they got there as quick as they did. It took me 15 minutes to get off Geneva rd to Aldis on yarm rd to take my wife shopping. The two single lane roads under the railway need to be rebuild as full roads capable for taking emergency vehicles, as there is not much you can do if the traffic is bumper to bumper with no space to pull over. Although I would love to blame DBC not all of it is there fault this time, but they should now have another good go at the rail ways as its them who refuse to rebuild the bridges, or may be it part of that 80 million pound station rebuild DBC are planning.
Any one who knows the town knows that there are only two ways into this area, Yarm road and the by pass, using Neasham rd and Geneva rd, with the by pass closed for road works and all traffic routed via the road works in the town I am surprised they got there as quick as they did. It took me 15 minutes to get off Geneva rd to Aldis on yarm rd to take my wife shopping. The two single lane roads under the railway need to be rebuild as full roads capable for taking emergency vehicles, as there is not much you can do if the traffic is bumper to bumper with no space to pull over. Although I would love to blame DBC not all of it is there fault this time, but they should now have another good go at the rail ways as its them who refuse to rebuild the bridges, or may be it part of that 80 million pound station rebuild DBC are planning. RealLivin
  • Score: 8

2:50pm Mon 23 Jun 14

JJ2000 says...

This weekend has been a nightmare for town road system.
I have clients that need medications at certain times and with conditions like Parkinson's disease it becomes time critical.
It took me 20 minutes to get from one call to the next on a trip that usually takes 5 minutes. Multiply this by a number of clients and it quickly became a problem.
The roadworks in the center of town are one issue, but cutting off the outside bypass at the same time is just negligent planning.

There may be no excuse for the Fire Brigade, but there's also no excuse for the council either! It's just becoming dangerous.
This weekend has been a nightmare for town road system. I have clients that need medications at certain times and with conditions like Parkinson's disease it becomes time critical. It took me 20 minutes to get from one call to the next on a trip that usually takes 5 minutes. Multiply this by a number of clients and it quickly became a problem. The roadworks in the center of town are one issue, but cutting off the outside bypass at the same time is just negligent planning. There may be no excuse for the Fire Brigade, but there's also no excuse for the council either! It's just becoming dangerous. JJ2000
  • Score: 6

3:29pm Mon 23 Jun 14

Ann says...

RealLivin wrote:
Any one who knows the town knows that there are only two ways into this area, Yarm road and the by pass, using Neasham rd and Geneva rd, with the by pass closed for road works and all traffic routed via the road works in the town I am surprised they got there as quick as they did. It took me 15 minutes to get off Geneva rd to Aldis on yarm rd to take my wife shopping. The two single lane roads under the railway need to be rebuild as full roads capable for taking emergency vehicles, as there is not much you can do if the traffic is bumper to bumper with no space to pull over. Although I would love to blame DBC not all of it is there fault this time, but they should now have another good go at the rail ways as its them who refuse to rebuild the bridges, or may be it part of that 80 million pound station rebuild DBC are planning.
It's all too easy for the Deputy Chief Fire Officer and others to blame the roadworks and then DBC by proxy. But as RealLivin pointed out, the Highways Agency shut down the A66 ring road from the Arena to Morton Park for the full weekend to carry out (necessary?) resurfacing work. This rerouted the traffic down Neasham Road to Geneva Road and onto Yarm Road. It caused absolute chaos on Saturday trying to get about this side of the town.

Although RealLivin, even if you could open up the railway bridges on Smithfield Road and Parkside, Aldborough Walk is only accessible from Fenby Avenue/Melsonby Crescent, therefore you would need to get onto Geneva Road.

Whilst ultimately the blame should lie at the feet of the scum who did this, IMO criticism should be directed towards the Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service as they had the option to ask the striking officers to resume work. Instead because "lives were not considered to be at risk" they choose to allow 2 house to be at destroyed and another home at risk of demolition for the sake of 25 minutes. Then the Deputy Chief Fire Officer has the audacity to be quoted praising their resilience plans!!!
[quote][p][bold]RealLivin[/bold] wrote: Any one who knows the town knows that there are only two ways into this area, Yarm road and the by pass, using Neasham rd and Geneva rd, with the by pass closed for road works and all traffic routed via the road works in the town I am surprised they got there as quick as they did. It took me 15 minutes to get off Geneva rd to Aldis on yarm rd to take my wife shopping. The two single lane roads under the railway need to be rebuild as full roads capable for taking emergency vehicles, as there is not much you can do if the traffic is bumper to bumper with no space to pull over. Although I would love to blame DBC not all of it is there fault this time, but they should now have another good go at the rail ways as its them who refuse to rebuild the bridges, or may be it part of that 80 million pound station rebuild DBC are planning.[/p][/quote]It's all too easy for the Deputy Chief Fire Officer and others to blame the roadworks and then DBC by proxy. But as RealLivin pointed out, the Highways Agency shut down the A66 ring road from the Arena to Morton Park for the full weekend to carry out (necessary?) resurfacing work. This rerouted the traffic down Neasham Road to Geneva Road and onto Yarm Road. It caused absolute chaos on Saturday trying to get about this side of the town. Although RealLivin, even if you could open up the railway bridges on Smithfield Road and Parkside, Aldborough Walk is only accessible from Fenby Avenue/Melsonby Crescent, therefore you would need to get onto Geneva Road. Whilst ultimately the blame should lie at the feet of the scum who did this, IMO criticism should be directed towards the Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service as they had the option to ask the striking officers to resume work. Instead because "lives were not considered to be at risk" they choose to allow 2 house to be at destroyed and another home at risk of demolition for the sake of 25 minutes. Then the Deputy Chief Fire Officer has the audacity to be quoted praising their resilience plans!!! Ann
  • Score: 3

7:50pm Mon 23 Jun 14

Luther95 says...

He said: "The reason that the response time was slightly longer was roadworks in the centre of town and we were getting conflicting information about the address of the incident; there was three or four different addresses given."

Mr Errington rejected the claims of some eyewitnesses that the response time was longer the brigade's seven-minute target.

He added: "I would not accept that the response time was any longer than it would have been had it been business as usual."

So Mr Errington offered two theories why there was a slight delay time, not one (roadworks to blame). Neither was the response time to the fire materially affected.

How long will the Echo's management allow their subs (who write the headlines) to get away with sensationalising stories like this by creating luridly-inaccurate headlines? (The actual text of the story seems well-written). Sales of the Echo may be plummeting, but running nonsense like this will fatally jeopardise the paper's reputation for balanced reporting.
He said: "The reason that the response time was slightly longer was roadworks in the centre of town and we were getting conflicting information about the address of the incident; there was three or four different addresses given." Mr Errington rejected the claims of some eyewitnesses that the response time was longer the brigade's seven-minute target. He added: "I would not accept that the response time was any longer than it would have been had it been business as usual." So Mr Errington offered two theories why there was a slight delay time, not one (roadworks to blame). Neither was the response time to the fire materially affected. How long will the Echo's management allow their subs (who write the headlines) to get away with sensationalising stories like this by creating luridly-inaccurate headlines? (The actual text of the story seems well-written). Sales of the Echo may be plummeting, but running nonsense like this will fatally jeopardise the paper's reputation for balanced reporting. Luther95
  • Score: 4

10:57pm Mon 23 Jun 14

timmypop says...

Does Mr Errington expect us to believe his drivel? How many other shed fires in the town have turned into full scale house fires since the road works have been in place? I understand that there are cameras on the fire engines and probably in the fire station, they could tell us how long it took for the firemen to respond to the call,whether they got lost on the way and the performance of these firemen at the fire. Mr Eddington insists that he is happy with the service he is providing during strikes, well I am not sure whether the public agree.
Does Mr Errington expect us to believe his drivel? How many other shed fires in the town have turned into full scale house fires since the road works have been in place? I understand that there are cameras on the fire engines and probably in the fire station, they could tell us how long it took for the firemen to respond to the call,whether they got lost on the way and the performance of these firemen at the fire. Mr Eddington insists that he is happy with the service he is providing during strikes, well I am not sure whether the public agree. timmypop
  • Score: -1

11:04pm Mon 23 Jun 14

Red rose lad says...

I don't agree with emergency services striking. Firefighters should be in the same boat as the Police, Armed Forces and also some nurses. They are Public Servants after all. The sooner we get legislation to change this the better. Roadworks aside, let's not lose sight of who has chosen to increase the risk to the public during this dispute.
I don't agree with emergency services striking. Firefighters should be in the same boat as the Police, Armed Forces and also some nurses. They are Public Servants after all. The sooner we get legislation to change this the better. Roadworks aside, let's not lose sight of who has chosen to increase the risk to the public during this dispute. Red rose lad
  • Score: -10

7:18am Thu 26 Jun 14

bambara says...

Red rose lad wrote:
I don't agree with emergency services striking. Firefighters should be in the same boat as the Police, Armed Forces and also some nurses. They are Public Servants after all. The sooner we get legislation to change this the better. Roadworks aside, let's not lose sight of who has chosen to increase the risk to the public during this dispute.
Indeed lets not lose sight of who is responsible directly for all the cuts to public services.
[quote][p][bold]Red rose lad[/bold] wrote: I don't agree with emergency services striking. Firefighters should be in the same boat as the Police, Armed Forces and also some nurses. They are Public Servants after all. The sooner we get legislation to change this the better. Roadworks aside, let's not lose sight of who has chosen to increase the risk to the public during this dispute.[/p][/quote]Indeed lets not lose sight of who is responsible directly for all the cuts to public services. bambara
  • Score: 0

9:50am Thu 26 Jun 14

tabby67 says...

why don't you lot stop slagging them all off for gods sake they will be the first you all call if your was on fire house. The fact is we have roadworks and unless the fire engines develop flaming wings they aint going to get there as quick! There is nothing anybody can do to change that while the council have roads dug up get real. If you want to judge and point your silly fingers do it to the 2 lads who started it!
MOAN MOAN MOAN the same ones every time!
Show some respect for once ey?
why don't you lot stop slagging them all off for gods sake they will be the first you all call if your was on fire house. The fact is we have roadworks and unless the fire engines develop flaming wings they aint going to get there as quick! There is nothing anybody can do to change that while the council have roads dug up get real. If you want to judge and point your silly fingers do it to the 2 lads who started it! MOAN MOAN MOAN the same ones every time! Show some respect for once ey? tabby67
  • Score: 4

4:20pm Thu 26 Jun 14

timmypop says...

tabby67 wrote:
why don't you lot stop slagging them all off for gods sake they will be the first you all call if your was on fire house. The fact is we have roadworks and unless the fire engines develop flaming wings they aint going to get there as quick! There is nothing anybody can do to change that while the council have roads dug up get real. If you want to judge and point your silly fingers do it to the 2 lads who started it!
MOAN MOAN MOAN the same ones every time!
Show some respect for once ey?
Wonder if you would have the same attitude if a shed fire in your garden escalated to a house fire due to the slow response of the fire brigade. Blame the striking firemen, blame the deputy chief for not having proper cover in place or blame the roadworks. Either way we are talking about families who have lost everything and sadly will not be able to replace some things like photos etc.
[quote][p][bold]tabby67[/bold] wrote: why don't you lot stop slagging them all off for gods sake they will be the first you all call if your was on fire house. The fact is we have roadworks and unless the fire engines develop flaming wings they aint going to get there as quick! There is nothing anybody can do to change that while the council have roads dug up get real. If you want to judge and point your silly fingers do it to the 2 lads who started it! MOAN MOAN MOAN the same ones every time! Show some respect for once ey?[/p][/quote]Wonder if you would have the same attitude if a shed fire in your garden escalated to a house fire due to the slow response of the fire brigade. Blame the striking firemen, blame the deputy chief for not having proper cover in place or blame the roadworks. Either way we are talking about families who have lost everything and sadly will not be able to replace some things like photos etc. timmypop
  • Score: 0

5:40pm Thu 26 Jun 14

Red rose lad says...

bambara wrote:
Red rose lad wrote:
I don't agree with emergency services striking. Firefighters should be in the same boat as the Police, Armed Forces and also some nurses. They are Public Servants after all. The sooner we get legislation to change this the better. Roadworks aside, let's not lose sight of who has chosen to increase the risk to the public during this dispute.
Indeed lets not lose sight of who is responsible directly for all the cuts to public services.
Change the record Bambi. Irrespective of your political jibes, I repeat the point that in pricipal, emergency services should not be allowed to strike. Having done a full stretch in HM Forces, I had some of my guys pulled away from an operational tour in 2002/3 to drive a green goddess, the last time the firefighters decided they weren't happy with their T&Cs. At that point, their pay was far superior to the guys who had to replace them. I know you won't be interested but there was a Labour government at the time. Whilst I have the utmost respect for the job the firefighters do, and I am extremely grateful that they are there to protect us, I still disagree with them being allowed to strike. Simples - and no politically motivated statistics to bore everyone. Think on.
[quote][p][bold]bambara[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]Red rose lad[/bold] wrote: I don't agree with emergency services striking. Firefighters should be in the same boat as the Police, Armed Forces and also some nurses. They are Public Servants after all. The sooner we get legislation to change this the better. Roadworks aside, let's not lose sight of who has chosen to increase the risk to the public during this dispute.[/p][/quote]Indeed lets not lose sight of who is responsible directly for all the cuts to public services.[/p][/quote]Change the record Bambi. Irrespective of your political jibes, I repeat the point that in pricipal, emergency services should not be allowed to strike. Having done a full stretch in HM Forces, I had some of my guys pulled away from an operational tour in 2002/3 to drive a green goddess, the last time the firefighters decided they weren't happy with their T&Cs. At that point, their pay was far superior to the guys who had to replace them. I know you won't be interested but there was a Labour government at the time. Whilst I have the utmost respect for the job the firefighters do, and I am extremely grateful that they are there to protect us, I still disagree with them being allowed to strike. Simples - and no politically motivated statistics to bore everyone. Think on. Red rose lad
  • Score: 0

12:48pm Fri 27 Jun 14

cameron43 says...

Not sure about the politics or whether the army are a more worthy cause than the emergency services. However, I hope that Darlington tax payers don't have to foot the bill for rebuilding these houses. The onus
must be on the fire service management who seem to have provided an inadequate
service during the fire strike. The cost burden should be on the fire service and not Darlington Borough Council tax payers.
Not sure about the politics or whether the army are a more worthy cause than the emergency services. However, I hope that Darlington tax payers don't have to foot the bill for rebuilding these houses. The onus must be on the fire service management who seem to have provided an inadequate service during the fire strike. The cost burden should be on the fire service and not Darlington Borough Council tax payers. cameron43
  • Score: -1

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