Fire stations at risk of closure in major shake-up

PUBLISHED: 10:20 20 June 2019 | UPDATED: 10:20 20 June 2019

Sidmouth Fire Station is not at risk at closure but changes could be made to staffing. Picture: DSFR

Sidmouth Fire Station is not at risk at closure but changes could be made to staffing. Picture: DSFR

Archant

A number of fire stations are at risk of closure under new proposals which could see Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service undergo its most significant change in 50 years.

There are six options that the service's members will look at during a meeting next week, and if approved a 12-week public consultation will be held from July 1 to September 20.

One option will see the closure of stations at Appledore, Ashburton, Budleigh Salterton, Colyton, Kingston, Porlock, Topsham and Woolacombe. Another option, which could affect the Sidmouth station, will see staffing changes at a number of stations with two engines - it is proposed that the first fire engine will be crewed 24/7 with 'on call' staff but the second fire engine is crewed at night.

In a statement, released on Wednesday the service said some stations attended only a handful of fires each year and had more resources than they needed. Elsewhere, more resources are needed to improve the response the service can provide.

The announcement comes mere weeks after the service said that ten minute targets to attend fires in rural parts of Devon and Somerset were impossible to meet.

A service spokesman said the risk has changed in the area they cover, with new housing developments and new road networks in place - but most of the fire stations were in the same place as they were 50 years ago and they needed to ensure the stations and fire engines were located in the right place to meet the demand.

He added important decisions need to be made to ensure the service's shrinking budget is spent wisely and efficiently.

"The service wants to significantly increase its fire prevention visits and building protection audits to make both people and buildings safer," he said.

"The service also needs to improve the reliability of our 'on-call' model which last year saw 20 per cent of our on-call fire engines not available due to lack of crew."

To fund these changes, the service will need to consider closing a number of low risk/low activity fire stations, removal of low risk/low activity fire engines and make some other changes to the way in which some fire engines are crewed.

New fire safety measures, building regulations and preventative means people are safer than ever before and with an ageing population, it needs to work harder to protect those most at risk from fires.

Here are the options being debated:

Option 1 - Station closures at Appledore, Ashburton, Budleigh Salterton, Colyton, Kingston, Porlock, Topsham and Woolacombe.

One appliance from Topsham will be relocated to Middlemoor.

Option 2 - Station closures and removal of third appliances - option 1 plus a move to remove four 'on call' fire engines, one from each station at Bridgwater, Taunton, Torquay and Yeovil - currently they all have three fire engines.

Option 3 - Station closures, removal of third and second appliances - option 2 plus a move to remove four engines, one from each station in Crediton, Lynton, Martock and Totnes - each one currently has two fire engines.

Option 4 - Station closures, removal of third and second appliances and change of status to day crewing - option 3 plus changing the staffing at three stations (Barnstaple, Exmouth and Paignton) - they currently all staffed 24/7. It's proposed the station will be staffed in the day but at night there will only be '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 and a number of stations have two engines - it is proposed that the first fire engine will be crewed 24/7 with 'on call' staff but the second fire engine is crewed at night. (This includes Brixham, Chard, Dartmouth, Frome, Honiton, Ilfracombe, Okehampton, Sidmouth, Tavistock, Teignmouth, Tiverton and Wellington).

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 proposals 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. This is in addition to the current whole time fire stations that will be unaffected during the day - this includes Bridgwater, Taunton, Yeovil, Exeter (Danes Castle), Exeter (Middlemoor), Barnstaple, Torquay, Paignton, Plymouth (Crownhill), Plymouth (Greenbank), Plymouth (Camels Head).

Visit www.dsfire.gov.uk for more information.

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