Suffolk fire chiefs admit blunder over “crazy” cat rescue response

FIRE chiefs have admitted that sending five fire crews to rescue a cat on a roof was 'disproportionate' and said lessons had been learned.

It emerged yesterday that more than 20 firefighters from Bury St Edmunds, Bungay and Felixstowe were all sent to Leiston to reports of a distressed cat on the roof of a two-storey house on Monday morning.

But the crews – including a turntable ladder – were turned back within a few minutes when an on-call firefighter from Leiston simply climbed a ladder and collected the cat.

The response was described as 'crazy' by the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) and last night red-faced Suffolk Fire Service bosses have admitted now their mistake, which was caused by an 'automatic' response to any incident that involved working at height.

Senior officers immediately questioned why so many engines were sent and have now implemented a new policy in which an officer will make a decision on the required response.

Karl Rolfe, area manager for the Suffolk Fire Service, said: 'We have refined our policy and lessons have been learned.'

He said the service had adopted national 'working at height' safety regulations in October last year, which included specialist teams that would attend incidents involving heights. It was a pre-determined response, an 'automatic turn-out' if you like, to maximise the health and safety of firefighters working at height, involving protocols and rescue methods,' he said.

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'The control room did nothing wrong, they followed the procedure for working at height and the safety systems in place.

'However, it's really not appropriate for an incident like Monday's. That proved to us that such a response to an incident can be disproportionate. For incidents like this, from now on we will be sending a duty officer to assess the scene and decide our response.'

Mr Rolfe said the service had six duty officers at any one time and one should be at the scene of an incident within 20 minutes. 'If a person is in distress we will still send, but for an animal we won't be sending that response automatically.'

He added that Monday's incident was believed to have cost the service about �350 and had alarmed senior officers.

'It attracted queries within the brigade straightaway and we implemented the new policy immediately,' he said. Referring to the stories generated by the cat rescue in Roberts Road, Mr Rolfe added: 'It was not a headline we would seek.'

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