Felixstowe: Fire crews face fresh cuts

FULL-time firefighters at Felixstowe are set to be cut again – and at times there may not be enough to take out a fire engine for a 999 call, it was revealed today.

Under the latest proposals, it is planned to reduce the number on duty during the day to just four, but there may be only two or three available depending on leave and other commitments.

If an emergency came in, those on duty would then have to wait for on-call firefighters to arrive as four officers are needed to man an appliance.

The proposed changes were today attacked as “very disappointing” by the town’s mayor Mike Deacon, who said it would inevitably cause delays in reaching fires and even a few minutes could be the difference between life and death.

Last year campaigners – spearheaded by the Star’s Save Our Fire Crews campaign – won a battle to prevent full-time crews based at the town’s station in High Road West being axed, with a compromise agreed which saw them continue on weekdays.

Mayor of Felixstowe Mike Deacon said the proposals, coming just a year after the last campaign fight, were “very disappointing”.

“I would suggest it will be a rarity for a complete team of four firefighters to be at the fire station and if there are less than four they will have to sit and wait for on-call officers to arrive. I am very worried,” he said.

Most Read

“We were told last time that speed is of the essence when it comes to an emergency and even a few minutes could, in some circumstances, be the difference between life and death.

“When we have Britain’s biggest container port on our doorstep and all that entails, plus hotels and guest houses, any cut to our fire cover is very concerning.”

Mr Deacon accepted that the number of 999 call-outs was reducing, but believed this was down to the excellent preventative and educational work done by officers and this work may not be done if there are less full-time officers.

Deputy chief fire officer for Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service, Mark Hardingham said with the 21 on-call officers available at the resort, including three new officers available to cover during the day, he was confident the system, called nucleus crewing, would work and the service would be able to respond to emergencies adequately.

“With the new recruits we can give much better cover during the day, and we are confident that the arrangements we have got in terms of on-call firefighters is stronger than they were 12 months ago,” he said.

He said in the past year there had been 230 call-outs in Felixstowe with 80 of them attended by full-time crews and half of those being false alarms.