Felixstowe: Cuts to fire crews a “huge gamble” with people’s lives

FIRE chiefs were today accused of taking a “huge gamble” with the lives of the people of Felixstowe if they axe the town’s full-time firefighters.

The Evening Star’s Save Our Fire Crews campaign is fighting proposals to cut cover for the seaside town – and union chiefs branded the county council plans as “hugely flawed”.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) in Suffolk said it could take more than six minutes for an on-call fire crew to arrive at the fire station before dressing and departing for an incident.

A back-up crew from Ipswich would take even longer.

“All this means is that the people of Felixstowe will have to wait longer for the first fire appliance to arrive when they are in need due to a fire or road traffic collision,” said the union.

“That wait could be even longer, up to nine minutes, which is an awfully long time when the house that you are in is filling up with smoke, the noise of the fire is getting louder and the heat is becoming unbearable.

“To go ahead with this recommendation would be a huge gamble with the lives and livelihoods of the people of Felixstowe and surrounding area but also with the lives of firefighters, regardless of their duty system.”

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Andy Vingoe, chairman of Suffolk FBU, said the plans were “the most damaging and dangerous cuts to fire and rescue cover we have ever seen”. and money was coming before the safety of firefighters and the public.

Andy Message, acting brigade secretary, said: “When our members are worried, the public should worry too.

“Our message to Suffolk County Council, from the professionals on the frontline is simple: Stop and think again before someone pays the ultimate price.”

In Felixstowe, the cuts will mean all 999 calls being answered by on-call firefighters with back-up coming from the new Ransomes Europark fire station in Ipswich.

The FBU claims firefighters in Suffolk are being cut by 15 per cent, some 80pc of budget cuts will hit frontline services, and the county is ranked 51st out of 58 nationally for how long it takes to get to a house fire.

It is also concerned pro-active fire prevention work will be cut by 30pc – 300 less safety inspections a year.

Assistant chief fire officer Phil Embury said: “We feel the impact of these changes, while there will be a delay in response during the daytime, will be manageable. The number of calls received is relatively small and it’s a manageable risk.”

? Are you worried about the cuts to fire? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich IP4 1AN, or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk