EMERGENCY callouts to deal with fires in Wiltshire have dropped by around 50 per cent during Covid-19 according to Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service.

While the county's fire service has seen a dramatic cut in the number of incidents, assistant chief fire officer James Mahoney said there has been a shift in the nature of callouts.

He said that with garden waste facilities closed, people are resorting to using open fires to get rid of their garden waste.

He said: “We’ve seen an increase in fires that are getting out of control like that, so it’s a note of caution to people to be very careful with fires from garden waste.”

Much of the reduction is down to the UK-wide lockdown, as while open businesses, for example, still need to be inspected with many businesses shut it changes the need for these inspections.

Despite the decrease in callouts normal services have had to be adapted.

One such service is the ‘safe and well’ checks carried out by fire fighters or specialist prevention staff.

Asst chief Mahoney said: “From an operational perspective, we’ve stopped nothing, if someone dials 999 we will go regardless.

“We would normally ensure that through personal visits where we offer advice, fit smoke detectors and so on. Clearly, we can’t do that.”

“We are providing advice and support online, but are also providing telephone support where they can.

“Working with our local authority partners, identifying those who are most vulnerable, we will still go out with the appropriate PPE and carry out those visits where it’s essential for us to do so.”

While the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has they said 3,000 of their members were in self-isolation, Dorset and Wiltshire Fire Service have seen less than three per cent absence rates due to coronavirus.

Asst chief fire officer Mahoney said: “Being blunt, we are in quite a good place. We are an emergency service, so our service is unchanged, and we still respond to any emergency you would expect us to respond to.

“In terms of our operational staff, our availability is at or above what we’d expect it to be.”

Additionally, he said that there were no critical absences stopping firefighters from carrying out their emergency duties.

He said: “There are no critical role absences that are prohibiting us from delivering our service, which has to be balanced with access to those tests.

“How do we get someone back into the workplace as quickly as possible? At the moment we do not have a challenge with our workforce capability.

On the same token, we understand the human side of testing and we need to work out how best we can support that and access those facilities as the access systems are developed and what we can do to support our staff.”

Due to the service’s improved availability, asst chief Mahoney said: “that puts us in a really good place in terms of being able to support our partners, where of course they might be struggling more than we are”.

Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service will be working with South West Ambulance Service to provide 24/7 support to crews across four ambulances in Salisbury, Swindon, Bournemouth and Dorchester.

Mr Mahoney said: “The ambulance will be responding in the normal way as any other, with the exception that it will be a firefighter driving and supporting the paramedic.”

As well as driving ambulances, Wiltshire firefighters have assembled PPE in Chippenham, fitting face masks for hospices, care home and South West Ambulance Services, and provided support to hubs such as Fiver Rivers in Salisbury.

To ensure that these extra duties do not interfere with ordinary operations, 650 of around 1000 firefighters volunteered to help the county get through coronavirus.