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Fire response times rise in region despite a fall in callouts

PUBLISHED: 10:44 25 May 2018 | UPDATED: 10:44 25 May 2018

Fire crews tackle a major blaze in the centre of Sudbury Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL

Fire crews tackle a major blaze in the centre of Sudbury Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL

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Fire service response times in Suffolk and Essex have significantly increased in the last decade despite incident callouts dropping.

The Scene on Angel Hill as firefighters tackle  a fire at Cycle King in Bury ST Edmunds Picture: ANDY ABBOTTThe Scene on Angel Hill as firefighters tackle a fire at Cycle King in Bury ST Edmunds Picture: ANDY ABBOTT

The Fire Brigade Union have criticised the increase, saying that just ‘20 seconds can make the difference between life and death’

Statistics published by the Home office reveal that in 2016/17, the average response time to a fire in Suffolk was 9.6 minutes. By 2016/17 it had risen to 11.4 minutes, an increase of 18%.

In the same time span, incident call outs have reduced by 55.8% from 1,413 to 624.

Meanwhile in Essex, response times have gone up by 23%, from eight minutes to 9.9 minutes.

It also saw a drop in incident call outs, from 2,869 in 2006/07 to 1,691 in 2016/17 – a fall of 41%.

Riccardo LaTorre, secretary of the FBU in the eastern region, said: “Just 20 seconds can be the difference between life and death.

“Even the most casual observer can see why we don’t get to fires as quickly.

“We have lost more firefighters, engines and stations in Suffolk and Essex than we have seen in a lifetime and it is taking longer and longer to get to fires.”

Mark Hardingham, Chief Fire Officer, Suffolk Fire and Rescue, said fire response times has been rising nationally over the last 20 years, a trend he says is reflected in Suffolk

He said: “However, in terms of how safe people are from fires, the numbers of fire-related injuries and fatalities has reduced nationally and in Suffolk over the last 10 years and remains low, comparing well with other parts of the country. We are committed to responding to incidents as quickly as we can and are always exploring and bringing in new initiatives to improve our performance.”

He said the decrease in callouts was a reflection of the fire safety work carried out by firefighters however the FBU says the rate of actual fires has remained steady.

A spokesperson for Essex County Fire and Rescue Service said: “The pattern seen in Essex matches the national long-term trend of increasing response times.

“A range of factors have contributed to this, including changing traffic levels. Our community safety strategies, supported by targeted prevention activities, have contributed to a 41% fall in the number of incidents we have attended over the last decade. This reduction reflects the national trend.”

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