Fire stations across East Devon are at threat of closure or slashed services under new proposals to save cash with flexible firefighting.
Exmouth, Sidmouth, Honiton, Budleigh Salterton and Topsham fire stations have come under fire in Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service’s (DSFRS) plans to deliver ‘targeted prevention’ – focussing fire cover to high risk areas.
So-called ‘low risk-low-activity’ fire stations face closure, on-call only crews, or changes to night time cover.
Under the proposals Budleigh Salterton and Topsham fire stations face closure; Exmouth will lose its second fire engine, will be manned 24/7 but with an on-call crew only at night; Sidmouth and Honiton to each retain two fire engines and 24/7 on-call cover, and night crew. There are no plans to change Exeter’s 24/7 full-time fire cover.
DSFRS proposes to introduce six roving daytime fire crews to serve ‘high risk’ areas across Devon and Somerset, or where cover is scant; this will be funded through any cuts and closures.
The proposed changes have been driven by the growth of ‘significant’ new housing developments across Devon and Somerset, meaning DSFRS must assess where crews are located in relation to the change and size in population.
The public can have a say over the proposed cuts and changes during a 12-week consultation, from July 1 until September 20, 2019, once the plans have been agreed by members of the Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Authority.
There will be a number of ways the public can give their opinion, including a series of drop-in exhibitions, and find out more.
Lee Howell, DSFRS chief fire officer, said to fund the changes the service had to consider closing a number of low-risk, low activity, fire stations, scrapping low risk, low activity, fire engines and making other changes to the way some fire engines are crewed.
He said demand for fire and rescue service response was reducing, as was the amount of money DSFRS receives; he said ‘important’ decisions were needed to ensure its budget was spent ‘wisely and efficiently’.
DSFRS has saved £12.2 million over the last five years and estimates it needs to find a further £8.4 million in the next three years.
Mr Howell said: “We all know that the main way to save lives is to prevent fires from happening in the first place.
“As a service, we have made great progress but we feel we can and should be doing more to make people and buildings safer.
“At the same time, we need to improve our ability to respond to emergencies and ensure we better match our resources to our risks. These proposals aim to do just that.
“We do understand that communities affected by these changes will want more information and we will be engaging with them in the coming months to listen to their views.
“This will also be a difficult time for the staff affected and we are committed to working with them to consider how we might provide options as we move forward.”
The six options which will be presented to the Fire Authority are:
Option 1 – Station closures
Station closures at Appledore, Ashburton, Budleigh Salterton, Colyton, Kingston, Porlock, Topsham* and Woolacombe.
*Note: One appliance from Topsham will be relocated to Middlemoor.
Option 2 – Station closures and removal of third appliances
Option 1, plus: Bridgwater, Taunton, Torquay and Yeovil Fire Stations all have three fire engines (two of which are crewed by ‘on call staff’). It is proposed that one of these ‘on call’ fire engines is removed from each of the four stations outlined.
Option 3 – Station closures, removal of third and second appliances
Option 2, plus: Crediton, Lynton, Martock and Totnes all have two fire engines. It is proposed that one of these fire engines is removed from each of the four stations outlined.
Option 4 – Station closures, removal of third and second appliances and change of status to day crewing
Option 3, plus: Barnstaple, Exmouth and Paignton currently have whole time crew on these fire stations 24/7. It is proposed that the station still operates on a 24/7 basis but at night, the fire engines are crewed by ‘on call’ staff.
Option 5 – Station closures, removal of third and second appliances, change of status to day crewing and to on-call at night only
Option 4, plus: Brixham, Chard, Dartmouth, Frome, Honiton, Ilfracombe, Okehampton, Sidmouth, Tavistock, Teignmouth, Tiverton, Wellington, Wells and Williton Fire Stations all have two fire engines. Rather than take away the second fire engine from these stations, it is proposed that the first fire engine is still crewed 24/7 with ‘on call’ staff but the second fire engine is crewed at night.
Option 6 – Station closures, removal of third and second appliances, change of status to day crewing, on-call at night only and introduction of day crewed roving appliances
Option 5, plus: It is proposed that six day-crewed fire engines (with trained Firefighters on the fire engine) are introduced which will be deployed in areas of forecasted high risk and/or where gaps in ‘on call’ cover is presented. These firefighters will undertake additional fire prevention visits and building fire protection inspections to help make people and buildings safer. They will be available to immediately respond to incidents and improve response times in the area located. Note: these 6 fire wholetime crewed (Full Time Equivalent) fire engines are in addition to the current wholetime fire stations that will be unaffected during the day. These existing wholetime fire stations are: Bridgwater, Taunton, Yeovil, Exeter (Danes Castle), Exeter (Middlemoor), Exmouth, Barnstaple, Torquay, Paignton, Plymouth (Crownhill), Plymouth (Greenbank), Plymouth (Camels Head).