Fire chief says station changes for the best

A FIRE chief claims the benefits of any potential downgrading of the Ridge Fire Station “far outweigh” any negative impact.

Gary Walsh, deputy chief fire officer for East Sussex Fire & Rescue Service, said he understands that residents are “concerned about the proposed changes.”

But he states the service wants to ensure those households defined as most at risk of fire can be reached as quickly as possible.

The Fire Authority’s decision to recommend the downgrading of the station sparked a huge outcry from residents and the Fire Brigade Union.

More than 700 residents signed a petition at a stall manned by councillor Michael Wincott and Richard Street last Saturday. Another 1,800 people have joined an online campaign.

Mr Walsh points to an ESF&RS review that shows there are 4,104 vulnerable households that the Bohemia Road station can reach within eight minutes that appliances at the Ridge can not reach.

However there are only around 33 vulnerable households that The Ridge can reach within eight minutes that Bohemia Road can not.

The report states that service to vulnerable households can be improved if the fire engine at The Ridge is relocated to Bohemia Road.

Around 18,802 vulnerable households have an attendance of two fire engines within eight minutes.

With another engine from
the Ridge that number would 
rise by 4,104.

Mr Walsh said: “Our analysis of risk has indicated that by relocating the full time appliance from The Ridge fire station to Bohemia Road,it will mean that we can reach an additional 4,00 households with two appliances within our performance standards of eight firefighters in eight minutes. This will ultimately improve the response to life threatening incidents.

“The benefits of maintaining the retained appliance at The Ridge fire station will be to respond to incidents in Hastings when firefighters from Bohemia Road are deployed elsewhere and maintain overall service resilience when we have major incidents across the Service, sometimes outside of Hastings.”

But the Fire Brigade Union says the service has got its sums wrong.

Spokesman Simon Herbert said: “This is a clear downgrade in Service that will affect many thousands of properties.

“On the subject of households most at risk of fire that although service managers claim to improve fire cover to 4104 premises they have neglected to say that in order to do this the 11,440 premises (1710 considered at high risk of fire) that make up the north east of the town and outlying villages will receive worse fire cover.

“This means longer attendance times. These longer attendance times will go up on average by five minutes.”

“This information supplied by ESFRS’s own departments completely contradicts their review documentation that states only 33 premises will be negatively impacted.”