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Felixstowe: Public quiz fire bosses over plans to axe resort crew

PUBLISHED: 12:00 17 March 2011

The meeting last night

The meeting last night

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FELIXSTOWE: Fire chiefs faced a grilling from residents angry that their full-time fire crew is set for the chop - leaving them at greater risk in future.

Despite repeated attempts to explain the proposals, householders said they were not reassured and the bottom line was that fire crews would take longer to reach day-time emergencies.

If the plan to cut the full-time crew is approved, it will mean a person waiting to be rescued from a blazing house or trapped and injured in a crashed car will wait at least four minutes longer for help to arrive, and up to ten minutes for a second crew.

A public meeting at Orwell High School heard that on-call firefighters had already told senior officers they could not cope with the extra workload, and there were fears there would not be enough of them available.

Former firefighter Ray Wade said: “I have not been reassured one little bit.

“I know the on-call crews are good and they do their job well – but if they get there ten minutes later it’s not going to do anybody any good.

“I suggest you go back to the drawing board. We need our full-time firefighters here.”

Former Felixstowe fire chief Arthur Arnold said: “This is taking us back to the 1950s, the 1940s even, by not having full-time firemen here.

“I think what you are doing is wrong. I think economies can be made elsewhere and we could retain a nucleus of full-time firefighters in Felixstowe.”

Residents questioned why Haverhill’s full-time cover was being reduced but Felixstowe’s cut from seven days a week to nothing in one fell swoop yet it was on the end of a peninsula with one road in which was prone to blocking by accidents.

Francis Cotterell, a former firefighter, said Felixstowe currently had 21 on-call officers, ten of which also worked as full-time officers with several of the rest working outside the town. He questioned how often the resort would be able to provide two fire engines at an incident and the danger to life if the Ransomes Europark crew was already busy.

Deputy chief fire officer Mark Hardingham admitted he could not guarantee two on-call crews for every incident.

“That would be the same across our 28 on-call fire stations across Suffolk – the answer is no, we cannot, and I have to be honest with you.

“It relies very much on the availability of on-call firefighters and we are not their primary employer,” he said.

“I am absolutely confident we will always be able to turn out one of those on-call appliances and on most occasions to turn out two.”

Officers would be working to improve on-call firefighter availability.

n Are you worried about the proposals to axe Felixstowe’s full-time fire crews? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich IP4 1AN, or email eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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