Felixstowe: Fire campaigners’ fears grow over call-out times

FELIXSTOWE: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it – that’s the message today to fire services bosses preparing to make changes to Felixstowe’s emergency cover.

There is growing concern over how long it will take a back-up crew to reach a fire in the resort.

There are also fears over whether the town will be able to provide enough on-call fire cover in future, when the volume of call-outs is likely to increase due to there being no permanent crew in the town.

More than 1,200 people have signed The Evening Star’s Save Our Fire Crews petition against withdrawing the resort’s full-time day-time fire crew.

At present the town has excellent cover from its on-call crews, who act as back-up during the day to the full-time firefighters, and at nights when they are the front-line teams.

Last year there were only six breaks in cover when no on-call teams were available – totalling 24 hours across the whole year – and they didn’t miss any of the 400-plus incidents they had to attend.

But whether they will able to keep up the levels of cover when they take over all the single fire engine call-outs as well is causing concern. It is proving difficult county-wide to provide enough on-call firefighters.

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It is understood the full-time crew from Felixstowe was sent to a thatch fire in Mid Suffolk last week because not enough on-call crews were available in the area.

Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey said she had been assured at a meeting with county council officials that two crews would be available for incidents in the seaside town 24 hours a day, seven days a week – but one of them would be an on-call crew, and the other would be based in Ipswich, 12 miles away. Most incidents – especially those involving property – demand two crews. “What we are challenging the county council on is just how much time will be added to the arrival of a fire crew in an emergency,” said Dr Coffey.

“They tell us they will be able to reach Felixstowe Fire Station from the new fire station at Ransomes Europark in 11 minutes.

“That’s quite easy because the fire station is central and served by good roads, but the fire will not be at the fire station and actually getting to a fire somewhere in the town or its surrounding area is more challenging and could take a lot longer. My big concern is the predictability because you never know when a fire will happen, and just how many minutes are going to be added.

“The meeting gave us a chance to put down some markers and have an exchange of views but it has not taken us much further forward.”

Public consultation is due to start on Thursday. The county council has admitted crews will take longer to reach fires but says this is “acceptable”.

? What do you think of the proposed changes to fire cover? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich IP4 1AN, or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

? Dr Therese Coffey’s column – page 26

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