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Cornard blaze heightens fears about fire service cuts

06:00 07 January 2016

Suffolk Fire and Rescue Services took a district council building control worker up on a cherry picker to get a view of the damage in the wake of the Sudbury fire

Suffolk Fire and Rescue Services took a district council building control worker up on a cherry picker to get a view of the damage in the wake of the Sudbury fire

Members of a group set up to fight proposals to downgrade Sudbury fire station have spoken out following a serious blaze at a house in Great Cornard this week.

Four fire crews were needed to tackle the blaze, which broke out on the ground floor of a property in Raydon Way just after midday on Tuesday.

Two Sudbury pumps were originally called to the scene but one was unable to attend due to a mechanical fault.

A second appliance was mobilised but the nearest three fire engines were unable to respond because not enough on-call crew members were available.

Eventually the second and third fire engines had to travel from Halstead in Essex, some eight miles, and a fourth from Hadleigh, which is around 12 miles away.

It took multiple crews more than an hour and a quarter to get the blaze under control, which was in an end of terrace house.

Last night a spokesman for the Sudbury and Cornard Against Fire Cuts Action Group said the incident highlighted “the meagre amount of fire cover in Sudbury” and proved why proposals to replace one of the town’s two fire engines with a smaller, cheaper rapid response vehicle should be opposed at all costs.

He said: “If these proposals are actioned and the Sudbury area finds itself with only one fire engine and a small rapid response vehicle (RRV), it brings to the forefront some very serious issues that need to be addressed.

“RRV’s are smaller than a standard fire engine, they carry fewer crew members and less vital equipment.

“At a recent Sudbury Town Council meeting, county council portfolio holder Matthew Hicks and Chief Fire Officer Mark Hardingham assured the public that nearby stations would be able to safeguard the town and its people.

“This incident in Cornard exposes the obvious flaws in their proposals in that the nearest three Suffolk fire stations were not able to respond due to the fact that crews were not available.

“The proposals have detailed a saving of £35,000 per annum. Is this saving worth a life or a lost livelihood? The answer from the public has to be a resounding no.”

Cornard resident Dan Gurney, who gave an eyewitness account of Tuesday’s house fire, said it was a concern that the supporting crews had to be drafted in from another county.

He added: “The support from the two units at Halstead was very much appreciated but I dread to think what the outcome would have been had it been late at night and the fire hadn’t been noticed by a neighbour.

“Everyone is safe and well and I know the family want to thank the brave and dedicated fire crews. More support has to be shown to save this crucial service in Sudbury or lives could be put at risk.”

Because of the devastating blaze in Sudbury last September, the town was the first to hear about the proposed cuts at a public meeting last November.

Mr Hardingham told a packed hall he was confident Sudbury would still be able to provide a “good level of fire cover” with one appliance and an RRV, which would have the “best and most innovative” fire-fighting equipment installed.

He said the cuts were necessary because the number of emergency calls the Suffolk service deals with has fallen significantly from around 6,500 five years ago to just under 4,800 last year.

A public consultation meeting about the proposed fire service cuts in Sudbury will take place at the Town Hall on February 3 at 6.30pm.

Email fireserviceredesign@suffolk.gov.uk to confirm attendance.

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