The Daily Mail’s bird brained ‘elf and safety hysterics with the Carshalton Ponds firemen
The Daily Mail’s Eleanor Harding and Mark Duell (two tabloid writers for one bird in a pond?! – ed) thundered:
It looked like a major emergency – 25 firemen standing at the water’s edge assessing the life-threatening situation before them.Stranded 200ft out and struggling for survival was the victim they had come to rescue…a seagull.
And if that scenario were not ludicrous enough, there was worse to come.The firemen were then barred from going into the 3ft-deep water because it was judged to be a health and safety risk.
Why didn’t the person who called them wade in?
As crews from five fire engines stood beside the pond in South London for up to an hour, it fell to a member of the public to pull on his waders and rescue the bird, which was caught up in a plastic bag.
The Mail had its target. Her was a story that epitomsied the state of the country.
The editorial snarled:It shouldn’t take five minutes to work out that sending 25 firemen to help an ailing seagull and then forbidding them to risk three feet of water is – as the legendary Mr Littlejohn might say – proof that we’re all going to hell in a handcart.
Dominique Jackson knows:
As the daughter of a firefighter, I find it difficult to join the brigade-bashing band wagons which roll on inevitably after incidents such as this one. Like the armed forces, firemen have to follow strict protocols and obey orders. Of course they do. They are – usually – dealing with bona fide emergencies, life and death situations.
The fire service has standard and rigorously enforced procedures for every eventuality, including the emergency water rescue they clearly believed they were attending at Carshalton Ponds. Once there, they assessed the situation which was eventually deemed too dangerous, according to these rigid criteria.
Richard Littlejohn is aghast and agog:
…why it needed 25 firemen from three different fire stations to respond to a seagull in distress is unclear. But once they all arrived, they got no further than the water’s edge. Even though the pond was just 3 ft deep, they were prevented from going in. An on-the-spot risk assessment ruled that it was too dangerous. So a couple of dozen burly, fully trained firefighters were reduced to the role of spectators as a member of the public pulled on a pair of waders and rescued the bird.
Fleet street Fox was unimpressed:
Twenty five firemen stood and watched as a struggling seagull floundered in a 3ft-deep pond, too scared to wade in and save it.
What say the London Fire Brigade? Well:
The Brigade was called to the scene by the RSPCA as an emergency and the Brigade always takes calls from such organisations seriously. Firefighters arrived on the scene at 1407 and the incident was declared over at 1411.
ALondon Fire Brigade spokesperson said:
“The RSPCA called us out as an emergency. Our firefighters rushed to the scene only to realise they’d been called out to a seagull with a plastic bag round its leg which was swimming around quite happily and wasn’t in any distress. This clearly wasn’t an emergency so the firefighters left it to a local animal rescue charity to deal with and swiftly left the scene.”
So. They never stood about watching as the bird was rescued.
A photo embedded in the aforesaid Jackson’s lament is captioned:
Common sense: Bird centre volunteer Adam Briddock rescues the stranded seagull from the pond in Carshalton, south London as firemen look on
But why so many crew? The Brigade adds:
“Often, by the time our firefighters arrive at an incident, someone has waded in to try and rescue an animal only to get into danger themselves, so we send enough crews to deal with whatever we may find. The safety of the public and our firefighters is always our priority.”
Still, 25 seems a lot. And why did they just stop and stare, as Jackson and Littlejohn note? Was it ‘elf and safety madness?
Firefighters were not stopped from entering the water due to health and safety protocols. Just this week, LFB crews were called to rescue a man after the bulldozer he was driving fell 40 feet down into a quarry pit. When they realised the man’s life was at risk, the firefighters acted outside of normal procedures and risked their own personal safety to lift him out and save his life. London Fire Brigade’s firefighter are trained to make difficult judgement calls about when it is right to risk their lives in order to save another.
Such are the facts…
PS – Maybe the Daily Mail’s staff needs to check her protocols and orders?