The Fire Brigades Union has accused North Yorkshire Police of making a “nuisance call” when it requested fire service help at an anti-fracking protest at Kirby Misperton.
A fire engine with hydraulic platform was requested on Monday (2 October 2017) to extract a protester from a small wooden tower on the verge outside the gate to Third Energy’s gas site at Kirby Misperton. A specialist police team used the equipment to bring the protester down. DrillOrDrop report
The Fire Brigade Union’s North Yorkshire branch secretary, Steve Howley, told DrillOrDrop today:
“I think the police should not have used us in that manner. I think it was a misuse of fire service resources. It was a false alarm.
“We are often talking about nuisance calls. This was a nuisance call on the behalf of the police. We should not have been there.”
The hydraulic platform, based a Scarborough, is one of only three operated by the fire service in North Yorkshire. It was at the Kirby Misperton protest for about two hours.
Mr Howley said:
“There was nobody at risk and nobody in danger.
“It didn’t warrant that level of response. We are having life-saving equipment tied up. What would have happened if a high-rise block in Scarborough had caught fire?”
The FBU is a member of the organisation, Unions Against Fracking, which calls for a moratorium on the process.
Mr Howley told anti-fracking campaigners at Kirby Misperton they had the union’s full support. Third Energy has said it plans to frack the KM8 well at its site in the village before the end of the year.
In an email sent yesterday to campaigners, Mr Howley said:
“I voted in support of the anti-fracking resolution brought before FBU national conference and personally I believe Fracking has no place in our Country let alone North Yorkshire, I signed up to support frack free united earlier this year.
“In terms of the Fire service involvement I am disgusted and disappointed. Firefighters have been placed in such a position by the Police and secondly senior fire service managers by their decisions to force Firefighters to attend the site yesterday.
“We are clear this is not the role of the Fire Service, as we are there to render humanitarian services and save life and property, not provide law and order intervention.”
Mr Howley said he had raised the issue with the Assistant Chief Fire Officer.
“If help is requested from the police we will attend if there is a need for people to be rescued and if lives are at risk.”
He said the union was confident that the issue had been addressed. But he said the use of the fire service at North Yorkshire anti-fracking protests would be monitored.
Measures would be taken, he said, to prevent union members “being unwantedly exposed to such situations again in the future”.
Councillor “shocked and annoyed”
Di Keal, a local councillor said she was shocked and annoyed to see the use of fire service equipment to remove the protester.
“This was a complete over reaction by the police – the structure is not even very high – and our fire service should not be exploited in this way.
“Fire officers and the specialist equipment they use are there to save lives, not to facilitate police action against lawful protest.
“With the recent cuts in fire personnel and tenders made by the Tories at the county council, if there had been a major fire in Ryedale on Monday, lives could have been lost while fire officers were deployed to carry out this ‘removal’. It is deplorable that our fire officers were used in this way by the police, who know full well that this is outside their remit.”
North Yorkshire Police said in response to the FBU’s criticism:
“A protestor was removed from unsafe scaffolding on a grass verge on Habton Road, Kirby Misperton, at about 5pm on 2 October. Following a risk assessment, for his own safety and that of other road users, North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service attended with an aerial ladder platform, and police officers with specialist training removed him.
“Officers negotiated throughout the day with three people on top of the unsafe scaffolding, which could have collapsed and put road users at risk. One did not come down, and significant emergency services resources had to be used for his own and other road users’ safety and welfare.
“He was arrested, and has been charged with obstructing a police officer. North Yorkshire County Council arranged to have the scaffolding removed.”
Fire service statement
A spokesperson for North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service said:
“We were called on Monday (2nd October) afternoon to assist North Yorkshire Police at Habton Road, Kirby Misperton. Our Aerial Ladder Platform from Scarborough attended the scene to assist specially trained police officers to reach an individual who was at risk on unsafe scaffolding, which was in danger of collapse.
“We regularly assist partner agencies at incidents where there is a risk to life or public safety.
“North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service will only attend incidents at the Kirby Misperton site if there is a risk to life or public safety and not to assist with law enforcement elements. This has always been our position and it hasn’t changed since the incident on Monday.”