Two firefighters holding a hose. Photo by
24 Mar 2020

COVID-19: Fire and rescue services in the UK lose hundreds of firefighters to self-isolation


London Fire Brigade has at least 280 personnel in isolation, 5% of its overall staff, according to the UK Fire Brigades Union, who now demands priority testing for first responders.

In an article from earlier this week, the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) describes how fire and rescue service personnel must receive priority testing for coronavirus, after some brigades reported losing hundreds of staff to self-isolation.

The union also says that testing could help reduce the risk of frontline staff transmitting the infection to vulnerable members of the public.

London Fire Brigade has at least 280 personnel in isolation, 5% of its overall staff.

West Midlands Fire Service, which covers Birmingham, has 105 staff in self-isolation, 5.5%

Scottish Fire and Rescue Service has 285 staff in isolation, 3.75%.

Essex County Fire and Rescue Service has 61 staff in isolation or 4%.

Fire and rescue services across the UK are operating with 11,500 fewer firefighters than in 2010, and, unless services are able to test their employees, they could face dangerous shortages.

Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said:

“In this time of national crisis, every emergency service worker has an important role to play. The NHS is an obvious priority, but any testing regime needs to address all key public services. Without proper testing, the number of fire and rescue personnel available could drop to dangerously low levels. Fires and other non-virus related emergency incidents won’t wait for this crisis to subside and ministers need to consider that carefully. It is vital for public safety that firefighters and control staff, like their colleagues in the NHS, receive priority testing and, once available, vaccination. We’re pushing for measures to limit our members’ exposure to the virus, but some interaction with the public cannot be avoided and ministers need to manage that risk. While the FBU has called for firefighters to cease all non-essential, non-emergency interactions with the public, they will continue to come into contact in emergency situations, placing them at greater risk of infection".


Photo: (Above) Two firefighters holding a hose. Photo by