Greater Manchester has lost one in three firefighters since 2002, data shows

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The numbers have been revealed as the recent UK heatwave showed how climate change could dramatically increase the number and severity of incidents fire crews have to deal with in the future.

Greater Manchester has lost more than one in three of its firefighters since 2002, Government data shows.

Analysis of Home Office figures by our sister title NationalWorld shows how the city-region’s fire service has steadily become smaller in size in recent years.

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Hundreds of firefighters left the service without their roles being filled between 2002 and 2021, the data shows.

It comes as the recent UK heatwave put the issue of firefighting firmly in the spotlight, with crews facing numerous severe incidents in the high temperatures and experts warning that we can expect more of this in the future due to climate change.

What does the data show for Greater Manchester?

The data shows that between 2002 and 2021 Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS) lost 37.5% of its firefighters, a reduction in the overall headcount of 819.

In 2021 there were 1,367 firefighters working in the service, compared to 2,186 in 2002. In 2011 there were 1,813 firefighters, meaning more than 400 crew members have gone from the service in the space of a decade.

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The last time more than 2,000 firefighters were working in Greater Manchester was in 2008, the data shows.

Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service has been gradually getting smaller in recent years, data shows. Photo: Getty ImagesGreater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service has been gradually getting smaller in recent years, data shows. Photo: Getty Images
Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service has been gradually getting smaller in recent years, data shows. Photo: Getty Images | Getty Images

As fire services are staffed by a mixture of full-time and on-call crew the data also shows the equivalent of full-time roles within the operation.

This shows a very similar picture. Between 2002 and 2021 GMFRS lost the equivalent of 808 full-time roles, a reduction of 37.1%.

There was the equivalent of 1,366 full-time firefighting jobs in the city-region in 2021, compared to 2,174 in 2002.

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The authorities in Greater Manchester have been approached for comment about the data.

What has been said about the reduction in firefighter numbers?

NationalWorld’s analysis shows that across England as a whole 9,000 jobs have been lost in almost two decades, with the headcounts at services across the country dropping by more than a fifth in that time.

The data has raised concerns that emergency crews are not prepared for the effects of climate change despite the fact that firefighters will be at the forefront of the crisis.

The UK’s recent record-breaking temperatures saw the London Fire Brigade declare its busiest day since World War Two as temperatures of over 40C were provisionally recorded in the capital city and at other locations around the country.

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The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) said its staff have been “under attack” from government cuts and said politicians and fire chiefs have been warned of the risks posed by climate change.

Environmental charity The Climate Coalition, meanwhile, said it is “imperative” that the government invests in measures to adapt to climate change such as ensuring public services are well resourced to deal with the effects.

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