Lives could be put at risk

MORE than 130,000 people in Ipswich will be covered by just three antique engines if the firefighters' strike hits home.Three Green Goddesses – aged anything up to 60 years old – are set to trundle on to the streets of the town travelling at just 35mph and without cutting gear, breathing apparatus or chemical fire-fighting equipment.

MORE than 130,000 people in Ipswich will be covered by just three antique engines if the firefighters' strike hits home.

Three Green Goddesses – aged anything up to 60 years old – are set to trundle on to the streets of the town travelling at just 35mph and without cutting gear, breathing apparatus or chemical fire-fighting equipment.

Facilities available during the strike will replace normal cover in Ipswich of six engines and one hydraulic platform crewed by expert staff and bristling with

up-to-the-minute fire-fighting equipment.

Chief Fire Officer Malcolm Alcock admitted lives could be put at risk and said it would be impossible to attend every call.

At an emergency committee presentation today, he said: "Quite clearly there is an additional risk to life as a result of this strike."

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Mr Alcock said the Green Goddesses would bear the brunt of fire fighting in Suffolk's urban areas while he will be relying on his retained staff to fulfil duties in rural parts of the county.

Of the 28 fully retained stations, Mr Alcock said he expected 15-20 to work normally.

While admitting the 47 appliances normally at his disposal across Suffolk provided "vastly superior service," he said: "The MoD will do the best they can with the resources at their disposal."

None of the modern engines will be crewed by MoD staff because it is not felt they have the adequate training to use them.

Only eight Green Goddesses will cover Suffolk, all will be based at military centres. It seems certain two each will be stationed at Bury St Edmunds and Lowestoft, with the remaining three in Ipswich.

Emergency calls will be monitored by senior fire officers in a special control room set up at police HQ in Martlesham.

It is there big decisions will have to be made about the seriousness of a blaze before valuable resources are committed.

Mr Alcock said: "We will make a judgement on the nature of the call. If there is any chance of loss of life or injury or risk to property, we will make an attendance.

"In the event of a minor call, it would depend on the number of incidents we are running at the time."

In response to concern about the ability of MoD staff to deal with serious RTAs, Mr Alcock said three rescue vehicles would be available in Suffolk, each carrying cutting gear and breathing apparatus.

A further support unit will also be available, although it is unclear where these extra resources will be based.

Assistant Chief Fire Officer Graham Smith, also speaking at the emergency conference, said he did not think Ipswich Town matches or other public events would need to be cancelled.

But he urged home owners and businesses throughout Suffolk to be vigilant and thorough while strike action was taking place.

Mr Smith revealed between 12 and 15 call outs would be made on a typical day at this time of year and said improved safety messages had greatly reduced problems around Bonfire Night.

Peter Monk, Suffolk County Council's public protection chief, added his voice to calls for extra care and urged people to follow current advice on fire safety.

He said: "The first message is to get out and stay out and call 999. Don't be tempted to tackle the fire by yourself."

Information on fire safety can be found at www.firekills.gov.uk and www.suffolkcc.gov.uk.

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