Friday, 11 October 2013

Catch a Fire ?


Late last month, Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service announced a plan to reduce the number of fire stations in the area from 31 to 20. 

 Their proposal, which is to be the subject of a public consultation, is that 19 stations will close, but that 8 new stations would open, each covering a larger area that those it replaces. The suggestion is that the selling-off of  land which previously housed a closed station will provide revenue to offset the cost of setting-up new stations.

The D Fand R S/Derbyshire Fire Authority accept that there will be a reduction in response times, albeit not a dramatic one (currently 80% of engines arrive at the scene of a fire within ten minutes, a figure they believe will fall to 75%), and they hope this will be partly offset by the use of 30 new Community Safety Officers engaged in fire prevention work in areas which have lost their local station.

I don`t particularly want to get into a huge discussion about all the ramifications of these proposals, but I do want to draw attention to one area where there are other factors to consider.

One of the stations tentatively scheduled for closure is Heanor Fire Station, which is my local station. It so happens that a year or two ago I met two of the retained firefighters based there.  Retained firefighters are a bit like lifeboat men without the sea. They have regular day jobs but they are effectively volunteers who can be called upon if they are needed in their area. Importantly, a requirement of the post is that they live and work only a few minutes from their local station.

A couple of things have stayed in my mind about my metting with these two. One was the very real sense of community they felt, the other was the wide range of calls they have to respond to.  You might think, as I did,  that they mainly respond to fires and traffic accidents, but you would be wrong. Given the nature of the area, with a strong manufacturing/engineering sector, they are required to attend the scenes of chemical spills and other incidents involving hazardous materials much more frequently than would be usual in other areas.

I don`t really believe that level of expertise and commitment is going to be readily replaced by a bit of education about fire prevention. However you might feel about the cuts generally what you have to ask yourself is, do we want to lose that valuable experience ?

Form your own opinions ;

Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service -

Derbyshire Fire Authority -

Fire Brigades Union -

Derbys FBU 1 - 

Derbys FBU 2  -

Retained Firefighters Union -

Ripley and Heanor News -

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