Up to eight fire stations may close under cost-cutting proposals being considered by Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service – but Burnham-On-Sea fire station appears to be safe for now.
Currently, there are 85 fire stations, 121 fire engines and 2,000 staff members across both counties.
The service said in an announcement on Wednesday evening (June 19th) that it wants to modernise its service after fire incidents in both areas had decreased 36% between 2008 and 2018.
Unions say closing any stations would be a mistake and have expressed concerns about a lack of fire cover.
The service says it has saved £12.2m over the last five years but an estimated £8.4m of savings are still needed in the next three.
It also says some stations attended only a handful of fires a year and resources would be better concentrated elsewhere.
It has outlined six options, ranging from the outright closure of stations, through to appliances being removed from stations and changes in staffing.
However, all options involve some station closures. Stations under threat include six in Devon: Appledore, Ashburton, Budleigh Salterton, Colyton, Topsham and Woolacombe. In Somerset, Kingston and Porlock stations are under review.
The Fire Brigades Union says it is concerned about any “potential station closures, the possible loss of firefighters’ jobs and cuts in fire cover.” It added that the move may mean increases in response times.
Chief Fire Officer Lee Howell says he understands that it would be a “difficult time” for communities and affected staff.
Mr Howell, pictured, 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.”
If the fire authority agrees with the proposals, a 12-week public consultation will be held from July to September.
Six cost-cutting proposals from the fire service:
The six options which will be presented to the Fire Authority are as follows:
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), Barnstaple, Torquay, Paignton, Plymouth (Crownhill), Plymouth (Greenbank), Plymouth (Camels Head).