A new survey has revealed that 73 percent of the public think firefighters contribute most to society’s wellbeing, next only to doctors and hospital workers.
The report, carried out by the Fire Brigades Union, surveyed 1,105 people and showed the firefighters came joint third with teachers. The police were fourth with 67% and bankers were at the bottom of the league with just four percent.
In terms of who the public hold in the highest esteem among a list of 13 professions, firefighters came third, again only ranking below doctors and hospital workers. Teachers, however, scored lower on the esteem rating, with police worse still, achieving just half of the 12 percent scored for firefighters. Women, people aged 35-44 and those living in the east or south of England were most likely to hold firefighters in high esteem.
Matt Wrack, general secretary of the FBU, said “This survey shows what we already know, which is that the public places a tremendous value on the work firefighters do, which isn’t just about fighting fires these days, but a whole range of other work, from assisting paramedics, to emergency response, lift rescues, public education, chemical spillages and road traffic accidents and even assisting at the thankfully rare scenes of terrorist attacks such as 7/7.
“Firefighters put their lives at risk to save others, and this selflessness is clearly something the public hold very dear.
“It’s a great shame that the government are focussed on decimating the fire and rescue service instead of injecting the investment it now badly needs in order to save lives and protect communities,” he said.
Some 84 percent of respondents opposed cuts to the fire and rescue service, with four percent thinking there should be fewer firefighters serving the public - the remainder of the response was split evenly with 43% believing the fire service should keep jobs at the same level and the same proportion believing firefighter job numbers need to increase.
Another 88 percent of respondents think the fire and rescue service, which makes up around four percent of council tax bills, is good value for money - police services are allocated 10-11 percent of council tax.
More than nine in ten (95 percent) of survey respondents agreed that rapid response to fires needs to be a priority – government figures show that fire engines now take on average 20% longer to get to house fires than they did 10 years ago.
Matt Wrack added: “It is extremely worrying that response times have increased by one-fifth over the last decade, but the government seems not to share these concerns.
“It isn’t overly dramatic to say that lives are being put at risk by this government’s austerity policies – sadly, it is nothing less than the truth. The majority of people don’t want police or private firms to run their fire and rescue service, and this survey shows we have the public firmly on our side.
“The FBU is the voice of professional firefighters, and we will continue to fight for the properly funded fire and rescue service the public want and deserve.”