Felixstowe: Former fire chief calls for rethink over plan to axe full-time crews

FELIXSTOWE: Cutting full-time fire cover for Felixstowe is “ill-conceived” and should be given an immediate re-think.

That’s the view of former county deputy fire chief Arthur Arnold who believes it will prove very difficult to recruit enough on-call firefighters for the seaside town.

“Changing Felixstowe to a retained service brings its own problems – recruitment to provide a guaranteed crew 24/7 is difficult,” he said.

“Employers now are not prepared to release staff to attend fire calls – and there have been problems already experienced on many retained fire stations in Suffolk.”

Mr Arnold, who was in charge of Felixstowe fire station in the 1960s and deputy chief fire officer for Suffolk from 1974 to 1982 and is backing the Evening Star Save Our Fire Crews campaign, said many employers were already running a skeleton staff to keep their businesses going in tough economic times.

At present, on-call officers may have to down tools and go to an emergency three or four times a month to support the full-time crews at the town’s fire station.

If those full-time crews are axed, the on-call officers could be needed 15 to 20 times a month, which would not please employers.

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They would be the front-line emergency cover for fires and accidents, with crews from Ipswich – up to 13 minutes away from parts of the resort – as their back-up.

At the moment, the full-time crew can be at an emergency in three to four minutes, while the on-call officers have to leave work, drive through traffic to the fire station in High Road West and wait for enough officers to arrive to man a fire engine before setting off.

On-call firefighters also have to carry out cleaning and maintenance or equipment, and only get one evening’s training a week.

Mr Arnold, of Bucklesham Road, Foxhall, said the fire service’s plan was “an ill-conceived proposal” to meet budget cuts and didn’t believe the full implications had been taken into account.

“The standard of fire cover will be reduced to below that which has existed for the last 50 years,” he said.

“May I suggest the chief fire officer and his senior staff look at other avenues for economies which do not affect the ‘sharp’ end of the service at Felixstowe and the public and industry are not endangered so much.”

Chief fire officer Andy Fry has said talks will take place with on-call firefighters about the level of availability they could provide.

? How do you think the cuts will affect you? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower brook Street, Ipswich IP4 1AN, or email eveningstarletters@evening star.co.uk