The Spectator

Letters | 9 August 2008

Spectator readers respond to recent articles

Part-time heroes

Sir: I noted with interest the article about ‘lazy firemen’ (‘Britain’s firefighters are underworked and inflexible’, 26 July). I am Lincolnshire’s Chief Fire Officer with more than 35 years’ service, and though there was much truth in what Leo McKinstry said, what he failed to address was the progress made by many fire authorities with part-time staff who are not represented in the unions castigated in your article. More than half of my fire stations employ part-time staff who respond to the most urgent medical emergencies either in a car or in a fire engine and provide immediate life-saving intervention while the professionally qualified paramedics are en route. We do this in partnership with the ambulance service and with a charity, LIVES, an integrated group of volunteers and professional responders.

This has shown to have saved countless lives since 1999, when we first operated the scheme (before the firefighters in France set up their integrated service). Part-time staff respond during the nights, evenings and weekends, and this often eats into their rest and family time. They give that time unswervingly for the benefit of their own communities and in many cases at some personal sacrifice and for a scant return. But it is true that I cannot get full-time firefighters to take part in the scheme (except where they are also part-time at another fire station), and that is a real shame.

Mike Thomas MBE
Chief Fire Officer
Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue, Lincoln

Bird brained

Sir: I was distressed to read Aidan Hartley’s account in Wild life (26 July) of how he dealt with what was presumably a ground hornbill pecking at the window of his new house — ‘Tappetytappetytappety BANG!’

These unique birds are listed as ‘vulnerable’ and are generally not found outside of large game reserves in southern Africa.

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