The Grim Reaper led a funeral procession to shouts of ‘save our station’ when Colyton’s annual carnival turned campaign rally against fire cuts.
Saturday’s funeral procession signaled the death of Colyton fire’s cover as residents and firefighters protested publicly to Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service’s (DSFRS) Safer Together cost cutting proposals to slash services and close fire stations.
Colyton fire station is at risk of closing as part of a plan rolled out by DSFRS to save money and update the fire service.
Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service is canvasing communities until September 22, 2019, about a range of options to save the service money. These include station closures, slashing crewing hours and ‘switching off’ fire engines
Under the proposals set out by the fire service:
- Topsham fire station is at risk of closing, relocating one of the town’s fire engines almost ten minutes’ away to Middlemoor.
- Budleigh Salterton and Colyton fire stations could also close.
- Another option is downgrade Exmouth fire station from 24/7 full time cover to day crew (fulltime firefighters) and on-call (retained) night crewing.
- ‘Switching off’ Sidmouth and Honiton’s second fire engines. Both towns will have one daytime fire engine and crew; the second fire engine and on-call crew will only be available from 6pm until 8am.
Before Saturday’s march, residents spoke of the ‘vital’ role played by Colyton fire station in protecting East Devon.
Tracy Trelease, crew manager at Colyton fire station, said: “If this fire station closes there will definitely be increased turnout times so people will be waiting longer for a fire engine in an emergency.”
Alison Stenning, Save Colyton Fire Station campaigner, said: “I feel we are being totally ripped off.
“We are paying for this service in our council tax and we expect a full fire service.”
The protest falls in the same week Neil Parish, MP for Tiverton and Honiton, told DSFRS chief fire officer Lee Howell that closing Colyton fire station would put lives at risk.
Mr Parish’s concerns over flawed data and ‘false’ statistics presented to the public in the Safer Together consultation document have been echoed across East Devon.
Budleigh Salterton Town Council last week declared the public document ‘inadequate’ and ‘over-complicated’.
In a letter to the chief fire officer, Mr Parish said: “The planned closure of Colyton fire station is short-sighted, unnecessary and a risk to public safety.
“There are serious questions about the statistics used in the consultation which is causing concern.
“It would be a travesty if Colyton fire station were to close on false pretenses.”
East Devon’s firefighters said proposed changes, cuts and closures mean waiting longer for help to arrive.
Closing Colyton station and ‘switching off’ the second fire engine during the day at Sidmouth and Honiton means no immediate back-up in the towns until crews arrive from Seaton or Ottery St Mary.
A final decision on DSFRS’s proposed plans will be made by the Fire Authority in November and any agreed changes would start in 2020.
VIDEO: Colyton carnival turned into a campaign march to save the town’s fire station from closure.