Overwhelmed but we coped says Cambridgeshire fire chief 

Cambs fire and rescue chief Chris Strickland (top, centre) has described the pressures of a heat wave. 

Cambs fire and rescue chief Chris Strickland (top, centre) has described the pressures of a heat wave. - Credit: Cambs fire and rescue

Over two days the combined Cambridgeshire and Suffolk fire control handled almost 800 calls - 300 of these between 2pm and 5pm on Tuesday. 

"Whilst dealing with the calls, they sent fire engines to 92 incidents in Cambridgeshire,” said chief fire officer Chris Strickland.  

“This was the highest amount ever for a single day since at least 2009 when our current recording system was implemented.  

“The average amount of incidents for a weekday in July is 25”. 

He admitted help available for incidents near the Cambridgeshire border “was limited. 

“In times like these I am so proud of the people we have.”  

A major incident command room co-ordinated efforts to ensure crews were relieved, rotated and to “make sure they were fit and well”. 

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Mr Strickland said they it was a team effort and “everyone pitched in together to make sure we were providing the best level of service we could”. 

The chief fire officer said it was clear residents appreciated their efforts, more than 600 comments reflecting that support channelled through social media.  

"People clearly recognise the conditions we’ve been working in and it means a lot to us that people take the time to show us their support,” he said. 

"As a service that relies heavily on part time firefighters, we always struggle with appliance availability during the day, sometimes having as few as eight on-call appliances available on any weekday.  

“However, in the lead up to the extreme weather many of our on-call staff responded to our requests for support and we were able to increase our on-call availability to between 12 and 20 appliances throughout both days.  

“Many of our on-call staff will have taken time off from their day jobs, or moved work around if they’re self-employed, to make themselves available to respond to emergencies knowing their community needed them." 

He added: “The pressures experienced over the last two days will not be a one-off. 

"The last couple of days have seen our service pushed to the very limit.  

“Having nearly every available fire engine committed to an incident is a situation that concerns me. 

“We reached a stage where we may have struggled to provide an immediate service to someone in an emergency or at the very least taken longer to get there.”