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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Operation overkill: 25 firemen and five engines sent to rescue one cat stranded on roof

By Daily Mail Reporter

'Crazy response': Suffolk Fire Service dispatched five fire crews to save a cat stuck on a roof yesterday

A fire service has been criticised after health and safety rules meant 25 firefighters were sent to rescue a cat stuck on a roof.

The cat was perched about 40ft up on a two-storey house in Leiston, Suffolk yesterday when five frontline crews were dispatched to save it.

The crews – two of which came from 30 miles away - scrambled to comply with national ‘working at height’ regulations and to ensure the health and safety of firefighters but union leaders have branded the response as ‘crazy and overkill’.

Suffolk Fire Service sent a turntable ladder from Bury St Edmunds with a two-strong crew, escorted by a support crew from the same station.

They sped off on the 60-mile round trip to Leiston at 9.45am. Firefighters with specialist training in working at heights ‘each likely to be four or five strong’ were also mobilised from Felixstowe, 30 miles away, and Bungay, 20 miles away.

Ironically the crews were turned back within minutes when a firefighter from Leiston climbed a ladder and rescued the cat - which then ran off unscathed.

Under the guidelines firefighters are allowed to work temporarily from the top of a ladder.

Suffolk Fire Service recently adopted national regulations drawn up in 2005 to ensure the safety of people working at height, according to the Fire Brigades’ Union.

The huge response would have cost taxpayers thousands of pounds.

An spokesman for campaign group The Taxpayers’ Alliance snapped: ‘It’s ridiculous that five fire crews were sent out to rescue one cat.

‘It’s almost laughable but wasting resources is bad news for taxpayers and others who might have needed to be rescued, so it’s not funny.’

He added: ‘Of course we want firemen to be safe, but health and safety and red tape has resulted in an excessive and costly response.’

The crews from Leiston and Bungay are on-call, or retained, while the other stations involved have day-only cover.

Andy Vingoe, Suffolk branch chairman of the FBU, said: ‘Health and safety says that if we go up on to a roof, it brings into play our working at height procedures and safety system.

‘If a cat is stuck on a roof there is a chance the owner could get distressed and try to rescue it themselves and we would end up having to rescue them as well.’

Cat on a hot tin roof: Five fire crews were sent to rescue a tabby stuck on a Suffolk roof yesterday

He stressed: ‘It is crazy and it’s overkill and if we are having to send five teams to an incident like that, what happens if there is a serious incident elsewhere?

‘It strengthens our case that we need more people to make sure we have enough cover to cope with the demands of the service.’

A Suffolk County Council spokeswoman said it had been called by the RSPCA to help and the reaction was in line with national regulations.

She said: ‘Due to the nature of the incident, fire crews with the specialist training and equipment were called to attend, in addition to the local crew.

‘The incident was quickly dealt with by the local crew so the specialist teams were stood down and did not attend.’

Neighbour Teresa Saunders, 49, alerted the fire service after hearing the cat crying and shrieking. The carer said: ‘The firefighters deserve a lot of praise. They were very quick and dealt with it incredibly well.

‘I don't know whose it was - it had a blue collar and was a tortoise shell tabby.’

She added: ‘It was perfectly fine as far as I could tell. It ran off as soon as it got down.’



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