Blaze victims from Budleigh Salterton have called plans to close the town’s fire station a ‘disaster waiting to happen’.
Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service’s (DSFRS) cost cutting proposals to close stations or slash crewing across East Devon prompted Budleigh residents to make their voices heard at Monday’s public consultation roadshow, at The Hub.
Fire victims Peter Phillips and John Paul Evans whose garage, in Redhills, Budleigh, was destroyed by a tumble drier blaze in May, called cuts to firefighters and stations ‘unacceptable’.
In a letter of support of keeping the town’s fire station and Exmouth’s 24/7 full time crew, the pair said the speed at which Budleigh’s firefighters responded had been critical in saving their property.
In support of Budleigh’s crew, they said: “If the response of the local fire teams had not been as fast, then we are in no doubt that the whole structure would have been destroyed, along with our neighbour’s wooden fence and shed.
Budleigh residents on Monday, July 15, were invited to the Hub, in East Budleigh Road, to quiz firefighters and DSFRS chiefs about the Safer Together consultation and proposed cost-cutting changes put forward by the fire service for Devon and Somerset.
DSFRS said it must save money and is looking at closing fire stations and reducing full-time cover; Budleigh’s station is under threat of closure. Exmouth’s full-time crew could be slashed.
Alan Tilbury, Budleigh Salterton Chamber of Commerce president, aged 78, of Boucher Way, said closing the town’s station would be ‘terrible’.
“It’s just another nail in the coffin; we have no police and we will have no fire station,” he said.
“I have heard we are safer now, because we are more aware. But it’s the unpredictable; the unpredictable will happen and it’s an extra ten minutes away to come from Exmouth.
“Just because Budleigh is small and beautiful, doesn’t mean we should be unprotected.”
Devon County Councillor Christine Channon, who lives in Cricket Field Lane, Budleigh, said: “One of the options in Exmouth was to have a day service and a reserve night service; that’s crazy because Exmouth is the largest town in Devon.
“In this particular area there are a lot of elderly people. We have also got Woodbury Common.
“They are saying it’s an option to remove Budleigh Salterton because we haven’t had many fires, so on the basis of that it could happen; but look at the Royal Clarence Hotel fire.
“We have got some very old buildings in Budleigh Salterton and also a lot of thatch; Sleep Cottage which is a lot of thatch, has gone up twice.”
Chris Kitson, a former Budleigh town councillor and mayor, urged the public to take part in the consultation.
He said: “The potential closure of Budleigh Salterton fire station does not in itself put a greater risk to the community.
“There have been many instances in recent years when there has not been a crew of retained staff – on-call members of the local community – to respond to an emergency.
“Often the engine allocated to be garaged at Budleigh Salterton has been relocated to another Devon location where more crew opportunities exist.
“The current time targets for attending a fire, or other incident, under a range of future potential fire service options, will be maintained; this information was given at Budleigh’s local engagement event.”
DSFRS is canvasing Devon and Somerset residents until September 22, 2019, about a range of options to save the service money, including station closures, slashing crewing hours and removing fire engines.
Collating fire statistics based on call-outs and rescues from across the two counties has prompted DSFRS to call for changes to be made to the way it works.
Proposals for Budleigh are to close its fire station; Exmouth faces a change of status to day crewing and on-call night cover; proposed for Honiton and Sidmouth is a change of status of a second fire engine to on-call cover at night only.
DSFRS said it plans to introduce six roving fire crews to cover Devon and Somerset.
See the DSFRS consultation information here.