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Firefighters are taking longer to respond to emergency calls in Suffolk, report warns

06:00 01 February 2016

Firefighters tackle a blaze at a farm near Framlingham last month.

Firefighters tackle a blaze at a farm near Framlingham last month.

Archant

Health and safety rules and increased traffic volumes are playing a part, Suffolk’s chief fire officer said.

New figures from the Suffolk and Fire Rescue Service’s (SFRS) show the number of property fires attended within 11 minutes fell from 77.5% in 2013/14 to 64.8% in 2014/15, against a target of 80%. It means that only 418 out of 645 property fires were tackled within the target time last year. Response times for house fires rose from 9.7 minutes to 11.1 minutes.

The length of time it takes crews to reach house fires has also increased by more than a minute on average in the last year,

Mark Hardingham, chief fire officer, said: “About ten years ago in the fire service, there was a change of approach whereby firefighters no longer get on a fire engine and, as they are driving to an incident, put on their fire gear – boots, helmet and other equipment – while stood up in the back as the fire engine weaves through traffic.

“The approach now is that when we get a 999 call, the firefighters dress quickly by the side of the appliance and then get on the fire engine, put on their seat belts and then respond to the incident.

“When you driving on blue lights, weaving left and right through traffic, and you have got four or five firefighters potentially stood up in the back with no seat belts and trying to put on their gear, that is an accident waiting to happen.

“Increased traffic volumes are also certainly having an impact on response times and I think that is reflected nationally. It is the case in all towns. Wherever there are larger towns, we tend to see increased volumes of traffic and that affects response times.

“The availability of on-call firefighters is another reason to an extent, particularly Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm when we are doing some work to improve availability.

“Little things like these all add up, but we always want to respond to incidents as fast as we possibly can and the fact that performances have reduced slightly is something we are working to improve.”

The report added that a recent adoption of other safer driving techniques, named ‘drive to arrive’, has also contributed to increased 999 response times.

The increase comes despite the number of “primary” fires falling from 808 to 785 last year, a report to the county council showed. Fires at business premises also dropped from 156 to 136.

The news also comes amid a public consultation, which ends three weeks today, over the future of Suffolk’s fire service, which is expected to make savings of £1.34m from its £22m budget by April 2018.

Currently, 29 out of the county’s 35 fire stations are crewed solely by on call staff.

Mr Hardingham added: “If you accept that a full-time fire station costs on average about 10 times more to run than an on-call fire station, and a number of our 29 on-call fire stations get less than one call a week, the idea of putting a full-time fire engine at our on-call fire stations and increasing our costs 10-fold in those areas in my perspective would not be a good use of public money, when I think rural areas do get a good level of service from on-call firefighters in their community.”

5 comments

  • I don't think getting dressed by the pump makes much difference. Sometimes pumps are unavailable because you cannot recruit, and pumps have to come from the next town. Also the fact that not many people do work near stations anymore and may also be responding from another village or town from there station.

    Report this comment

    Neil

    Tuesday, February 2, 2016

  • There you are then, we've all got nothing to worry about

    Report this comment

    Toasterface

    Monday, February 1, 2016

  • ......Sorry we are too late to put the fire out, but Barney couldn't find his bow tie and Cuthbert broke one of his boot laces......

    Report this comment

    Rhombus

    Monday, February 1, 2016

  • So that will get better with only 1 fire engine in Ipswich this year then ?

    Report this comment

    The Ginge

    Monday, February 1, 2016

  • I am sorry but the reason traffic is a problem is because you have placed the fire engines in Ipswich in the wrong place. After closing Colchester Road that was on a very wide open road that gave you easy access to the whole of North Ipswich and out to the Villages such as Tuddenham etc, you put it all the way over at Nacton where they have to come through Warren Heath or down Nacton Rd or Landseer Rd etc. For North West Ipswich around Norwich Rd it involves Trucks from Princess St instead of Colchester Rd, so they fight their way through London RdWest End Rd Lights and Yarmouth Rd then Chevalier rd or they fight their way up Civic Drive and st Mathews. The fact is that moving the fire station as predicted has given worse service to North West of Ipswich to the point where the fire chief is seriously suggesting it might be quicker to comein from Needham Market than use Ipswich Fire Crews to protect Ipswich. We all know that when they moved to Nacton at least 1 or 2 engines should have been stationed somewhere in North West Ipswich in addition, as once moved to Nacton they were to far away to play any meaningful responce to any fire in West Ipswich over the Orwell. For a fire service in crisis and not meating its target to then suggest reducing Princess St from 3 engines to 1 and to use retained fire crews in a major urban areas is a disgrace. Suffolk County Council cutting services whilst they already fail, all done by Councilors none of whom live anywhere near Ipswich. UNITRY IPSWICH NOW.

    Report this comment

    The Ginge

    Monday, February 1, 2016

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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