Alarm bells over fire and rescue service cuts

PUBLISHED: 07:51 24 April 2013 | UPDATED: 07:58 24 April 2013

The new smaller sized fire engines.

The new smaller sized fire engines.

Archant

Axminster Town Council expresses its concerns over plans for smaller engines and a reduction in the first responder team

Plans for money-saving cuts to the fire and rescue service could cost lives, Axminster town councillors have warned.

Replacing the town’s full-size engine with a smaller model and reducing the first-responder team by half are amongst proposals being considered.

But in its official response to the proposals, the town council last week expressed serious concerns.

Members were especially worried at the move to reduce the first responder (medical) team from two crew members to just one.

They will tell officials they consider this to be “unacceptable”.

In a letter to the fire and rescue service, the council said: “We believe there are times when the response given is likely to be more effective if there are two first responders in attendance.

“Furthermore, in rural areas, the retained fire-crew are often self-employed. It is not practical for them to be using the first responder vehicle for the work tools and materials, which it is essential for them to carry with them.

“Their vans are virtually mobile workshops in many cases. More thought needs to be given as to how appropriate this proposal is on a universal basis and allowance made for urban/rural differences.”

Councillors were less concerned about the proposal to use smaller engines – provided certain guarantees were made.

They said: “The proposal to reduce the size of fire tenders, by reducing the amount of specialist equipment carried, in order to increase their manoeuvrability is acceptable only provided that tenders with the full range of specialist equipment can be brought to any site, if needed, with sufficient speed to avoid jeopardising the effectiveness of the service provided.”

Emphasising the continuing need for two co-responders to attend emergencies deputy mayor Jeremy Walden said there were occasions when having only one trained medic was “totally insufficient”.

Cllr Douglas Hull said: “It is essential that on many occasions, you have two responders to help a person in need.”

Mayor Andrew Moulding agreed there were some serious emergencies when one co-responder probably could not deal with it alone.

But Cllr Sarah Leat pointed out that the firefighters were only the first responders – the actual paramedics came afterwards, and they worked in pairs.

Cllr John Jeffery criticised any moves to alter the fire and rescue arrangements.

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” he urged. “The service should remain exactly as it is.”

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