Union says fire proposals ‘puts lives more at risk’

Shocked firefighters at the Ridge Fire Station
Shocked firefighters at the Ridge Fire Station

FIREFIGHTERS in Hastings fear cuts at The Ridge Fire Station will put lives at risk.

Last Thursday members of East Sussex Fire Authority voted to remove the station’s retained fire appliance and boost cover at neighbouring Battle station.

But the Fire Brigades’ Union (FBU) this week criticised the move, saying the proposals’ ‘compromise fire safety’.

Just 18 months ago The Ridge Fire Station was saved from being downgraded to retained status following a campaign by residents.

Mark Brown, the FBU’s brigade secretary for East Sussex, said: “The fire authority’s proposals do affect our resilience in Hastings. The fire authority wants to remove one fire engine from The Ridge station, which is operated by a retained duty system.

“With any house fire we require more than one fire appliance before we can make any rescue. So the proposals will make it slower for us to carry out a rescue.

“This, without a doubt, severely compromises fire safety for people, as well as firefighters’ own safety. It puts lives more at risk.

“The FBU is working on a feasibility study for the regional fire service which will find the savings required without affecting the frontline.”

Last week Fire Authority members were asked to vote on a proposal to introduce a Day Crewed Plus duty system to The Ridge.

Currently firefighters who are on duty overnight are allowed to go home in the evening. But under the Day Crewed Plus system, on duty firefighters must stay in accommodation at the station.

The proposal was voted through by Fire Authority members, with 12 votes to six. During the meeting, members also had to choose between the proposal to downgrade Battle Fire Station to retained status, or approve the alternative one to boost cover there but at the expense of The Ridge.

Des Prichard, chief fire officer for East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service (ESFRS), told the Observer that a lack of Government funding for the fire service meant that frontline cuts were inevitable.

In recent months the service has been consulting on a raft of money-saving proposals as it struggles to find £7.1 million of savings from its £40 million budget.

Those against the cuts have demanded that ESFRS go back to the Government to ask for more funding to protect vital services.

But Mr Prichard said it was made clear that no more funding will be available to the service. Speaking to the Observer, he said: “I have been to (Fire Minister) Brandon Lewis and asked for more funding support and he made it absolutely clear there was no more funding for the fire service.

“Lyn Brown (shadow fire minister) made it clear to me if Labour was to win the next General Election, there would be no further funding for the fire service.”