Felixstowe: Full-time firefighters to be halved at resort

THE number of full-time firefighters on duty in the town is to be halved after the county’s cabinet backed the second stage of restructuring fire cover.

The number of full-time staff on duty at the town’s fire station was cut from 12 to eight last August – with the station going from being staffed seven days a week to five days a week.

Now the staffing is to be cut from eight to four – after the cabinet heard that two thirds of the calls to the fire station were actually made when the town was being covered by retained firefighters.

Cabinet member with responsibility for the fire service Colin Spence said research showed that there would be little impact on fire cover in the resort from the proposed changes.

He was backed up by fellow cabinet member Graham Newman, who represents Felixstowe.

He said: “I am going to be parochial about this and there was concern in Felixstowe – but having studied all the issues in the report it is difficult to disagree with the conclusions.”

It was unfortunate that the report had been published on the day the A14 was closed by two lorry accidents, but he said the fact that the new Ipswich fire station was only eight miles away and there had been more retained firefighters recruited in Felixstowe was significant.

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However LibDem group leader David Wood, a former firefighter, felt the decision made no sense.

He said: “Felixstowe has a growing port and is becoming a more important resort, especially with the new pier due to be built. This is the wrong thing to do.”

Speaking after the meeting Felixstowe mayor Mike Deacon said: “I am very disappointed.

“This is bad news for Felixstowe – a very retrograde step and I hope it’s not one we live to regret.”

He felt the predicted 68 per cent increase in the average response time to a 999 call by using a mixture of full-time and on-call firefighters was optimistic, and if back-up was needed from Ransomes fire station at Ipswich, this would take at least eight minutes.

“I am sure the on-call firefighters are extremely capable at their job, but it is still not the same as having a guaranteed crew of full-time firefighters at the fire station ready to respond,” said Mr Deacon.

“They will still have to leave their work, get to their cars, and then drive to the station to join a crew and that will mean delays.

“As we saw last year when a bolt of lightning struck a house in Alexandra Road, Felixstowe, the response time can be the difference between a disaster and a catastrophe – the quick response managed to save a row of houses from being burned to the ground.

“What could happen in some circumstances is not worth thinking about.”

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