Farmer was forced to tackle blaze

The burning bales
The burning bales

Halifax farmers David and Rachael Robinson are at loggerheads with fire chiefs after a blaze on their land during industrial action by crews in West Yorkshire.

Twenty bales of straw on a trailer were set alight – believed to be by arsonists – and Mr Robinson put himself at risk by tackling the blaze last Friday night himself.

The Northowram couple claim they dialled 999 at 10.22 pm and were told by fire control that the incident was not deemed a priority and consequently no crews were sent to the scene by Robinson’s Farm Shop, Score Lane, Northowram, Halifax.

At that time firefighters were on strike and stand-by crews were running a reduced service.

The fire service claim they did not receive the emergency call.

Mrs Robinson said the couple were told their bales were on fire and rushed to the scene carrying fire extinguishers from the shop.

“David was trying to put it out but it wasn’t going out and he asked me to ring the fire service,” said Mrs Robinson.

“I rang 999 and told them what was going on – the blaze was under power lines.

“I was told it was not classed as an emergency and I asked why not and the woman went off the line and came back and still said `no.’ I was a bit irate to say the least.

“My husband got the tractor and tried to lift the straw bales to save the trailer.

“He was ramming the tractor into the trailer and it was well alight. He kicked the last off with his feet to save the trailer but it was damaged.”

She said the call was logged on her phone for five minutes from 10.22 pm – and she has a call log statement showing the details.

Mr Robinson said he understood the firefighters’ dispute but still expected a service and was livid.

“After 30 or 40 years I have to call the fire brigade and I expected them to attend and not be told it’s not a priority,” he said.

Mr Robinson said his actions fighting the blaze might be deemed unwise but he just acted on impulse to save his trailer, and if the fire service had responded he wouldn’t have had to put his life at risk and let bales of straw burn at the side of the road.

The lost straw and damaged trailer has left the couple well over £1,000 out-of-pocket.

Dave Walton, Assistant Chief Officer for West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service, denied any knowledge of the incident.

He said there had been an extensive check of all incidents attended and all recorded activity, as well as all telephone calls received into the fire control, both via emergency and admin phone lines.

“During the period immediately surrounding this inquiry West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service is unable to locate any trace or record of a call to an incident to Robinson’s Farm Shop, Northowram, or the surrounding area,” he said.

------------------

Firefighters are stepping up their industrial action and will strike again on Wednesday, November 13.

It will be the fourth strike in the pensions dispute with the Government and take place between 10 am and 2 pm.

There will also be a further ballot for other forms of industrial action which will close on Wednesday, December 4.

The Fire Brigades Union said the escalation follows the Government’s decision to worsen still the proposal on firefighter pensions.

General secretary Matt Wrack said: “Our members will not be intimidated by the Government. This latest attack will simply harden the resolve of firefighters. “Although we still hope the Government returns to negotiations, our members have told us that they are prepared for a long, hard campaign if necessary.”

Fire Minister, Brandon Lewis, told firefighters y that he had withdrawn June proposals on firefighters taking their pension before 60.

West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service said stand-by coverage during last week’s two strikes worked well. Twenty-eight fire engines were operating during last Friday’s strike between 6.30 pm and 11 pm against the normal complement of 54.

During the strike action time-frame stand-in crews attended 19 incidents – the most significant of which was in Calderdale. That was the chip pan fire at a high rise flat in Sowerby Bridge. During Monday’s strike stand-by crews were called to 13 incidents.