Fire stations unavailable for much of the last three months
Three Suffolk fire stations were able to respond to emergency calls for less than half the time over the last three months of 2015 according to new figures that have emerged.
And in December there were four Suffolk stations that were unavailable more than they had crews to operate them – at a time when many homes were decorated with Christmas trees and decorations.
We were sent the figures after publishing the results of a Freedom of Information request about details of how often part-time fire stations were “off the run” because not enough crew members were available.
The new figures show that between October 1 and December 31 last year Eye fire station was available for calls 33% of the time, Nayland was available 38% of the time, and Needham Market was available 43% of the time.
These figures showed the total availability – from any hour of the day or night. Reydon and Southwold fire station was available 54% of the time.
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During December the availability rates were even lower: Eye was available 31% of the time, Southwold was available 38% of the time, Nayland was available 39% of the time, and Needham Market was available 42% of the time.
Fire stations need at least four crew members to be available – including someone of station officer rank and a driver. Most stations have 11 or 12 part-time firefighters based there at any time.
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The news has prompted fears that the situation with part-time fire stations is deteriorating – just as Suffolk Fire and Rescue prepares to radically change the way it operates.
A meeting to discuss plans to halve the number of fire appliances based in Ipswich is due to be discussed at a public meeting at Suffolk County Council’s Endeavour House headquarters today.
The fire service has said a reduction in the number of emergency calls, and a need to cut costs, has resulted in the need to streamline the organisation.
This would see a reduction in the number of appliances available at several fire stations across the county and the closure of one station altogether – Wrentham in north Suffolk.
Deputy Chief Fire Officer, Mark Sanderson said: “The average availability of all our on-call fire stations is 82.8% during week days, 96% on week nights and 92.8% at weekends. On call fire station availability between 9am and 5pm during week days is a challenge and this reflects a national trend. This is because on-call firefighters are not always available due to their full-time work commitment.
“We are always recruiting new on-call firefighters and we have 21 potential new firefighters starting their recruitment tests tomorrow.
“We have also embarked on a project to improve on-call availability and will be introducing some changes to how we work in the next few weeks. We are certain that this will help us to improve availability.
“Availability at some stations such as Eye, Needham Market, Reydon and Southwold and Nayland fire stations is currently being monitored closely as this is below our preferred target level, on some occasions, during some weekdays.
“However, officers and our Combined Fire Control monitor availability on a continuous basis, minute by minute, and they make arrangements to send the next nearest available stations just in case an incident did occur in that area.
“Whilst stations like Nayland currently have vacancies for on-call firefighters, which can result in their availability level falling during weekdays, this does not mean that we no longer need the station.
“We carefully assess risk, the time it takes us to reach areas of the county and the demand on our Service and it is operational considerations such as this which help us to determine where our stations and resources need to be located. Our first priority is to protect our communities.”