Felixstowe: Four minutes extra for fire crews to reach emergency

Every minute, every second, is vital in an emergency – but in the Felixstowe area in future, people will just have to wait longer for help.

Fire bosses say that – on average – they expect on-call firefighters to take four minutes and two seconds longer to reach an incident than the full-time crews they are set to axe.

In those desperate extra minutes, which can seem like an eternity to those waiting, fire could wreak havoc and spread or a crashed vehicle with a person trapped inside could explode.

On Wednesday night, fire chief Andy Fry and his deputy Phil Embury will attend a public meeting in the town to explain why they feel this extra delay in reaching incidents is acceptable.

Residents will be able to have their say and ask questions at the event at Orwell High School, Maidstone Road, at 7.30pm.

The changes to the town’s fire service are part of the cuts to the county council’s spending. Removal from Felixstowe of the 12 firefighters who provide day-time cover seven days a week will save �440,000.

In future all emergency fire cover will be provided by on-call fire crews who have to leave their work and rush to the fire station to board the fire engine before heading to the incident, with back-up coming from the new Ransomes Europark fire station eight-and-a-half miles away.

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“This kind of a delay is not acceptable at all – it’s crazy, absolutely stupid,” said Evening Star Save Our Fire Crews campaigner Ian Heeley, a former on-call firefighter.

“Just think how many lives will be put at risk by delay.

“No delay is acceptable, and I think it will be longer than four minutes on many occasions because of traffic and because there are places in our area which are not easy or quick to reach.

“There is also no guarantee that a back-up up crew will be available at Ipswich, especially if they are called to a major incident elsewhere.”

Fire chiefs say the “main consequence” of the proposed changes “is that it will take a fire engine from Felixstowe approximately four minutes two seconds longer to respond to an incident during the day between 8am and 6pm.

“The nature of the in-call service is such that on-call firefighter availability is less reliable than full-time firefighter availability and there may be an increase in occasions when one of the two fire appliances at Felixstowe is unavailable.”