Fire service changes set to go ahead

SUFFOLK County Council last nightdenied that changes in fire cover would put lives at risk.The council's executive committee is being asked to adopt the Integrated Risk Management Plan (IRMP) at a meeting tomorrowwhich will cut the number of fire engines responding to an automatic fire alarm and the availability of turntable ladders.

SUFFOLK County Council last nightdenied that changes in fire cover would put lives at risk.

The council's executive committee is being asked to adopt the Integrated Risk Management Plan (IRMP) at a meeting tomorrowwhich will cut the number of fire engines responding to an automatic fire alarm and the availability of turntable ladders.

Fire Brigades Union has hit out after claiming it did not see the plan, which was drawn up in response to last year's dispute over pay and modernisation, before details were released.

But fire bosses say the plan will free more officers for lifesaving fire prevention work and have asserted there would not be any job losses in the changes made to the service and stations would not be shut down.


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Peter Monk, portfolio holder for public protection, said that more than 90% of automatic fire alarm calls were false. He said the aim was to send one front line appliance initially to a call and this would allow other fire engines to be deployed to genuine emergencies.

Just 36 of the 2,814automatic calls that firefighters responded to last year turned out to be blazes. Turntable engines attended 655 calls last year but were only used on 29 occasions and the last time the turntable was used to save someone in a fire was in 1970 at a blaze at the Cliff Quay power station in Ipswich.

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"There is no risk to the public over this and it is the best use of our resources. It makes the availability of front line machines better for the public," said Mr Monk.

But Steve Brinkley, Suffolk Fire Brigades Union secretary, said: "This process was an opportunity to enhance fire cover provision for the people of Suffolk. Unfortunately those involved in the decision making process have chosen to cutback services.

"Peter Monk witnessed the devastation that fire brings first hand on Friday March 4, when he raised the alarm at a house fire in Grimwade St.

"He commented to the off duty firefighters who secured the scene about just how long it seems to take for an appliance to arrive when the pressure is on. It's a pity that Peter has robbed Paul (so to speak) when it comes to this decision."

Vince Jell, Suffolk FBU brigade chair, said: "Fire cover will be less and no risk assessments are in place to inform the decision. We can only pray that their decision will not come back to haunt them. The opportunity to give a better service to the Suffolk public appears to have been missed."

Union members will lobby tomorrow's meeting to make their feelings felt over the proposals which they say have ignored the concerns of frontline firefighters and control staff.

In a statement last night the union said: "The Suffolk County Council executive will tomorrowrubber stamp proposals to cut fire cover in Suffolk after a limited consultation period and also after ignoring the concerns of frontline firefighters and control staff.

"The FBU wish to ensure that the community of Suffolk realise this means cuts to the amount of Front line appliances responding to automatic fire alarms, and cuts to the availability of high rise rescue vehicles (turntable ladders)

"The service provided today will be less from April 1st. We're all being taken for "fools" on this special day. We're asked to believe that cuts, dressed up as "efficiencies", are good for us.

"We're asked to believe that cuts, less of a service tomorrow than the one we receive today, are in our best interest.

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