To receive a report on the impact changes in Gloucestershire climate might have on the fire fighting in the County.
6.1 Nathaniel Hooton gave this presentation going through the potential risks to firefighting as climate change affected Gloucestershire. He explained that significant planning work was being done to ensure GFRS had the right equipment and training required to handle more frequent and more severe fire and flooding emergencies.
6.2 A member asked about flooding and wildfire incidences as indicated on a diagram in the presentation. Officers explained that fluvial flooding was harder to predict and the intention was to future proof GFRS to be able to respond to those unpredictable flooding risks. They also explained that wildfire risk was highest in Cheltenham and Gloucester even though they would have expected it to be highest in more rural areas. Work was being done to understand this. They also explained that they were working with landowners to prepare for high risk fire events. This included creating natural fire breaks in tree planting, using prediction models to understand risk, and equipping staff with the most suitable equipment (such as PPE) to handle extreme wild fires when they arose. They were also co-ordinating with the National Fire Chief’s Council to explore provision of more specialist firefighting appliances when required.
6.3 In response to a question about learning from international Fire Authorities that were already tackling the extreme weather conditions that were being predicted for the UK, the CFO explained that work was already underway and experts from abroad were feeding in their expertise to inform on best practise. Fire breaks through controlled burning was given as an example of a technique being implemented successfully in hotter countries.
6.4 A member asked whether GFRS were co-ordinating with Highways, Environment Agencies and/or sewage companies to direct the provision of resilience in Gloucestershire roads and countryside to be able to absorb heavy downpours of rain. The officer explained that weather predictions were accurate enough to allow for GFRS to set up a Silver or Gold Room meeting to plan for flooding. This was harder for less predictable pluvial flooding. Whether drains were cleared or not did make a difference to how this flooding could be absorbed, but the CFO did not believe drains and gullies were being insufficiently cleared by GCC. That said, he did highlight the increased amount of concreted or fake grass gardens as a contributing factor to the volume of water needing to be removed by the drainage system.
6.5 In response to a question about disposable BBQs being a fire risk, the deputy CFO explained there were national campaigns to encourage people to use disposable BBQs carefully and to dispose of them properly. He suggested more could be done to educate young people in particular, and that there was a wider responsibility in schools and communities to promote careful use and disposal.
6.6 A member raised concern around older fire appliances and vehicles being moved out to more rural stations once new appliances were brought in. The deputy CFO explained that it was important to get value for money out of vehicles given the considerable investment that goes into them. Efforts were being made to refresh the fleet with more environmentally friendly vehicles but they also needed to maximise the life cycle of the old vehicles.
6.7 In response to a question about receiving support from other fire services during emergencies, the CFO explained that last year there had been an unprecedented 14 major incidents declared in the UK at the same time. The primary reason why major incidents were declared was because a county had no available fire engines left. There was a national framework in place to resource counties in these scenarios but when emergencies coincided, resources become stretched. Merseyside Fire Service co-ordinated the National Resilience Assets to ensure local areas had the assets they would require to handle changing weather.