Staff shortages mean just a tiny proportion of Warwickshire’s businesses are able to have fire risk inspections

Figures show that the number of fires at industrial sites is on the increase both locally and nationally, prompting action from fire chiefs

Staff shortages mean just a tiny proportion of Warwickshire’s businesses and industrial premises are able to have fire risk inspections carried out by the county’s fire and rescue service.

Staff shortages mean just a tiny proportion of Warwickshire’s businesses and industrial premises are able to have fire risk inspections carried out by the county’s fire and rescue service.

Figures show that the number of fires at industrial sites is on the increase both locally and nationally, prompting action from fire chiefs.

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Warwickshire’s chief fire officer Ben Brook told the county council’s resources and fire and rescue overview and scrutiny meeting this week that more inspections were planned although the rate at which they could be rolled out was limited by his limited workforce.

Questioned by Cllr Sarah Boad (Lib Dem, Leamington North) about the number of industrial fires, he said: “We have increased the number from about 10,000 businesses on our risk space inspection list to around 35,000 and we are looking at all businesses across Warwickshire on a risk-based approach.

“But to be really clear, based on the full complement of 12 fire safety officers in Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service we can, over a 12 month period, only inspect about 600 of those businesses so we are working to train operational crews as well.”

Cllr Martin Watson (Con, Coleshill North and Water Orton) asked if staffing issues around the country would have an impact on Warwishire’s fire and rescue service.

Mr Brook said: “There is no doubt they will. I think our biggest current pressure is around the resources to deliver the fire safety interventions and understand what’s happening with the built environment within Warwickshire.

“We currently have three qualified fire safety officers out of the 12 that are required - there is a national pressure and desire for fire safety officers and they are paid more out in business now because demand is higher.

“Getting people skilled-up and trained takes two years so you just can’t get these people in.”

The increased fire risk across Warwickshire was also discussed at the previous meeting of the committee when it was attributed to a change in behaviours during lockdown including factors such as motorists being out of practice, resulting in road traffic collisions.