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Friday, 31 October 2014

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Firefighter warns over cuts

PLANS to axe one of two fire engines based at Whitehaven Fire Station have been branded “very dangerous’’ by a crew member.

Cumbria County Council is proposing the cut in a bid to make savings of £24million over the next financial year.

But the firefighter – who has asked not to be named – says that axing the retained vehicle and its crew will leave him and his colleagues without vital back-up.

The county council is seeking the public’s views on its budget proposals. There are also proposals to axe fire engines in Workington and Maryport, which are used to support the Whitehaven crew, making savings of £500,000.

“The importance of the retained fire engine has never been higher as the whole-time fire engine is now only crewed with four firefighters,’’ said the firefighter. “In the initial stages of a fire there are lots of tasks which need to be carried out quickly so firefighters can adhere to safety procedures. It is impossible to carry these tasks out with only four people in the short timescale available.”

Cumbria County Council says all fire service incidents are down 31 per cent from 2007/8 to 2012/13, with fires down 50 per cent. Injuries in property fires are down 33 per cent.

Cumbria Fire & Rescue Service’s latest Integrated Risk Management Planning (IRMP) for 2014-17 reveals that Whitehaven now has no “high-risk” areas. In the previous IRMP for 2011-2014 the high-risk areas were deemed to be Sandwith and Mirehouse wards; these are now classed as medium risk.

The firefighter said: “Why have these areas ceased to be high risk? Groups who are at a greater risk of fire deaths are people who smoke, single parent families, single person households and those living in social rented accommodation. These groups are still living in the Sandwith and Mirehouse areas.”

He said that by reassessing the risk level from high to medium means the response time is subsequently lowered from less than five minutes for the first appliance, to less than 10 minutes.

Without any high-risk areas in Whitehaven, the firefighter said: “It is easy to see how this could be used to justify future cuts to the fire cover in the town.

“Whitehaven has a population of 26,000, with a large hospital, old people’s homes, schools, a science park, Grade II buildings and a nuclear power station on its doorstep. If all these risks do not warrant two fire engines, what does?

“Getting rid of Whitehaven’s retained pump is a very dangerous proposal and will leave a gaping hole in fire cover for West Cumbria.”

A spokesman for Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service said: “The proposals relating to Whitehaven station have been made after a thorough and evidence-based assessment of the risk in the area. Some people will no doubt be concerned, but we would not be putting these proposals forward if we believed that they would put people at risk.

“The service has to shape itself to the dangers that actually exist,’’ he said. “However, we are in a period of consultation so clearly we are interested in hearing from local people and staff to see if there are alternative options that could be explored.”

The consultation runs until January 20.

Have your say

How many people realise the complete role of firemen, Road Traffic Accidents, Floods, arrival of the helicopter at West, traing which I believe they have just won an award for.assessing home safety oh! And fires!
Six men are required for a house fire, there is now four on a team .they will have to wait for the back up from Workington to arrive before they are deemed to have safe numbers and cannot act until they do. What risk is that to the residents remembering they cover to outlying areas of Copeland as well. Limited fire service, limited health service no local services. Nuclear plant? It's like preview of a horror movie.

Posted by Christine on 30 October 2013 at 18:38

Spokesman, spokeswoman, spokesperson. Will it be more accountable for the above three, in whatever scenario's these are used, to actually name these people in official places who, in this case, deem it alright that increasing the risk to members of the public, and fire crews, is acceptable? With responsibility comes accountability, take note CBC, so come on all you 'spokes whatevers', if you think the risk has been minimised to the extent of reductions being made, put your names/s to what you are saying. Or don't you actually believe what you are saying and will be quoted in the future when the wrong decisions have obviously been made? Is it surprising CBC's Ms. Woodburn or Mr. Reed MP, have nothing to say on this subject? Or are they too busy with bigger things, whatever they may be? Reply, as usual, not expected.

Posted by Bern Birbeck on 29 October 2013 at 12:55

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