‘Cut management, not frontline firefighters – smoke alarms save lives but they don’t put out fires.’
Blanket support for Exmouth’s ‘boots-on-the-ground’ firefighters has come from town councillors fighting to keep round-the-clock cover at the Liverton Business Park fire station.
Exmouth Town Council was last night unanimous in opposing Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service’s (DSFRS) Safer Together cost-cutting consultation which could end the town’s 24/7 fire cover and close the neighbouring fire station at Budleigh Salterton.
Councillors were united in calling for a fresh consultation that considered community concerns and agreed an ‘urgent need’ to actively collaborate with other towns contesting the proposed changes.
Applause rang out in the council chamber when Tuesday night’s motion to oppose the fire service changes was undisputed.
Cllr Andrew Toye said: “When we went to visit the fire station, we were told we couldn’t really rely on the figures in the (consultation) booklet because they are based on national figures.
“It talked about technology and smoke alarms. Yes, smoke alarms save lives but they don’t put the fires out.
“There might be a need to save money but there’s a lot of money wasted in management costs. They could cut management rather than frontline services.”
Cllr Steve Gazzard, Exmouth’s mayor, said: “I know people say I am being emotive but I have talked to the firefighters. They told me if these proposals go forward it will put lives at risk.
“And I don’t think we can support that because who knows, it might be us, or our families that need the fire service sometime.
“They are fantastically-trained individuals – men and women – and I think they deserve our full support.
“From what I can gather from around the town and around the table tonight, this council seems as though it’s going to give the fire service men and women – the boots on the ground – their support.”
Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service is canvasing residents from both counties until September 22, 2019, about a range of options to save the service money, including 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.
East Devon’s firefighters said the proposed changes, cuts and closures mean longer waits for a fire engine to arrive.
Cllr Bruce de Saram said: “Now, Exmouth crews can reach areas within ten minutes.
“If 24/7 cover is cut at night, the on-call crew only has five minutes to reach most areas because the other five minutes is spent reaching the station and leaving.
“Therefore, this motion does have practical relevance to us because clearly it has shown it will have no benefit to Exmouth if it goes ahead.”
Cllr Fred Caygill said: “To cut the full time status of Exmouth fire station to retained cover in the evening is a retrograde step, bearing in mind in around 1995 we were on day-manned only and retained at night and the Fire Authority of the day decided there were a lot more risks so they turned it from day-only cover to 24/7.
“So now they want to turn the clock back – and I think that’s a retrograde step; a town of this size needs 24-hour cover.”
Exmouth councillors debating the fire service Safer Together consultation, said:
- Figures shown give a false picture of the work the service does; they exclude the large-number of non-residential calls, such as fires on Woodbury Common.
- The report fails to include Exmouth’s seasonal increase of visitors or elderly population.
- No information relating to climate change; heatwaves or floods.
Time is running out to make your voice heard over the Safer Together proposals. The public consultation ends on September 22, 2019.