Published: April 25, 2010
Burnham-On-Sea fire chief speaks out following criticism

Burnham-On-Sea's fire chief has this week made a robust defence of the fire service in our area.

Burnham Fire Station Watch Commander Dick Solomon, pictured, spoke to following last weekend's rescues of a goat and a horse, which prompted negative feedback.

Mr Solomon, a fire officer of 36 years, defended Burnham fire service's attendance at a goat rescue in Brean last Sunday.

"We were called out by the police after they'd received a call from Secret World reporting the animal stuck and injured 20-30 metres up a rock face. Two appliances from Burnham were sent, along with a team from Bridgwater and a Land Rover in order to comply with the Health and Safety Act 1974. When a firefighter was lowered down the cliff face, it was found the goat was unharmed and it made its own way up the rocks. I agree that goats are better at negotiating rocks than humans, but until we got to its location we didn't know whether it was injured or not. We saw this as a good training exercise for practising a human rescue."

Mr Solomon went on to discuss the rescue of a horse from a slurry pit, which was reported by here.

"Burnham had an appliance on standby in Bridgwater last Saturday night and we sent a crew of six to this incident, alongside a crew of three from Taunton and five from Bridgwater, none of whom were standing around watching."

"The horse was trapped up to its neck in eight feet of slurry and this was a very dangerous situation. All incidents have to be carried out in accordance with strict health and safety regulations - a slurry pit is an extremely dangerous object. The animal was eventually pulled free using specialist equipment and we returned to Burnham at around 2.50am."

Responding to a point on the town's discussion forums regarding the firefighters "having time on their hands", Mr Solomon said: "At Burnham we are all retained firemen and have busy lives away from the station. We give up holiday time to do our jobs and the team members who are self-employed sometimes give up work to tackle incidents. We do this to give something back to the community and often deal with stressful incidents that can never be taken lightly."

Mr Solomon went on to discuss a point made on the forums regarding the large number of fire crews who "swarm like bees in a honey pot" around incidents.

He said: "Firefighters only attend incidents after being called out by the public or other emergency services via our call centre. It must be noted that the full details of an incient are rarely clear when the call comes to us, so it's often difficult to estimate how many firefighters are needed. It's always better to have a full compliment of firemen rather than too few and risk lives."

Responding to feedback about why roofs are frequently cut off vehicles at incidents, Mr Solomon said: "I cannot think of any occasion when a roof has been cut off a car without good reason. We're led by the ambulance crews and paramedics regarding the condition of the occupants inside. Any collision of vehicles over 26mph has to be treated as a potentially serious spinal injury and extreme care has to be taken with the occupants."

Mr Solomon went on to discuss how the fire service is funded. "All council tax payers do pay for fire services. We attend a wide range of incidents on behalf of the public, such as road accidents, explosions, accidents, chemical leaks, humanitarian rescues, animal rescues, fuel leaks, flooding, trench rescues. There are many, many types of incident which our trained crews are bound to attend under the 2004 Fire Service Act on your behalf. We will always try to help anyone."

"We also do pro-active work in the community with fire safety checks, where smoke detectors can be fitted free of charge."

He went on to address a point on the forums regarding "firefighters sitting around drinking tea".

Mr Solomon said: "All firefighters are entitled to meal breaks and refreshments, but the rest of our time when not dealing with call-outs is spent maintaining equipment, which has to be kept to a very high standard and comply with stringent health and safety laws."

He said the idea that firefighters are "idle spectators" at incidents is incorrect. "No-one is an idle spectator - sometimes they are needed to assist other firefighters at the scene, but every firefighter has an important role to do at an incident."

He concluded: "I would like to add that we are only too happy to meet and discuss the fire service here in Burnham with local residents. The fire service is an emergency service provided for the public and paid for by council tax contributions, along with any government grant funding which may be provided to cover major emergencies."

"I have been in the fire service for over 36 years and throughout this time have worked with professional firefighters who have put their lives on the line to save people from danger."

"If anyone wants more information, they are welcome to visit us any Wednesday evening between 7 and 9pm or email me directly here."

Burnham-On-Sea firefighters attended 336 incidents in the area last year.


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