Ilfracombe urged to fight fire cuts

Ilfracombe fire fighter Trevor French is among those calling on the community to stand up for their

Ilfracombe fire fighter Trevor French is among those calling on the community to stand up for their fire service. - Credit: Archant

Vote in our poll: Budget savings proposals to reduce town’s fire station to on call only will not get through without a fight, warn opponents.

A RALLYING cry has gone out for the people of Ilfracombe to once again stand up and fight plans to cut fire service cover in the town.

It is proposed to do away with full-time day cover at the station and reduce it to on call only, prompting fears that lives could be lost.

Five years ago Ilfracombe successfully fought off similar plans following a massive community campaign and a huge groundswell of anger against the cost-cutting measures.

The news was revealed on Thursday as part of 11 money saving proposals.

Chief fire officer Lee Howell said Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service needed to make savings of £5.5million over the next two years after seeing its government grant cut.

The service says the Ilfracombe measures would save around £330,000 a year and points to a 35 per cent reduction in call-outs during the past five years.

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But Ilfracombe fire fighter Trevor French, Fire Brigades Union branch secretary, said the scale of cuts was unacceptable and would put lives at risk.

“To make any difference and to save lives, we aim to get there within 10 minutes – anything after that and survivability goes down significantly,” he said.

“When the public dial 999 they want a fire engine there as quickly as possible.”

At an Ilfracombe Town Council meeting on Monday, local fire fighter and FBU member David Butterton, told councillors that without a day time crew at the station there would have been no fire fighting provision in the town last year for more than 10 per cent of the time.

“The direct impact of this proposal in terms of our operational response in the day time would be to put 1,854 households outside our 10 minute emergency response standard and of these 126 are classified as high risk,” he said.

Mike Creek of Ilfracombe Trades Council told the meeting the town needed to fight the same battle as in 2008.

“Then, the whole town got behind the campaign and we were successful,” he said.

“As a result, we have had the benefit of full day time fire cover for the last four years. What will the loss of full-time cover mean to the citizens of Ilfracombe? Our part-time fire fighters do a magnificent job but they cannot be expected to provide the cover the full-time staff do.”

Councillors resolved to discuss the issue after reviewing the consultation documents when they are released on Friday.

Mayor, Cllr Lynda Courtnadge said: “The safety of the community is paramount, but until we have seen the proposals we are not in a position to make an informed decision.

“I am very concerned about the public becoming alarmed before we know what the full facts are.

“We don’t know exactly what savings will be made and what safeguards there will be in the community for the proposed changes.”

* The public consultation begins on January 28 and runs until April 22. When the consultation starts the full proposals will be available on www.dsfire.gov.uk/consultation

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