Sudbury: Fire chiefs defend plan to remove water bowser from town

SENIOR fire officers have defended a decision to move a water carrier away from Sudbury.

The town’s mayor Jack Owen asked for reassurances amid fears the rural area surrounding Sudbury could be left vulnerable, after Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) moved the water bowser to Leiston.

The service had three carriers – one in Newmarket, another in Leiston and a third in Sudbury – which were all old and due to be replaced. However, when the Leiston bowser broke down, the decision was made to send Sudbury’s to Leiston and, because of budget cuts, it will not be replaced.

At a town council meeting on Tuesday, assistant chief fire officer Phil Embury told councillors while it was regrettable to lose a water bowser, he was confident the Sudbury area would not be put at risk by the move.

He said: “Because the call numbers for water carriers across Suffolk showed that the Newmarket appliance was used twice as much as the other two put together, SFRS didn’t think it offered the best value for money to replace all three.

“We are still left with one in the east and one in the west, which we are confident will give good coverage across the county.”

Mr Owen said because Sudbury was close to the border with Essex, there were grave concerns that some county organisations appeared to find it easy to “remove services from Sudbury.”

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He said: “The water bowser was used for local stack fires out in the districts where there are no major rivers or water sources.

“What concerns me is that the farmers could suffer if they have to wait for 45 minutes for a water bowser to arrive from Thetford. A lot of damage could be done in that time.”

But SFRS divisional officer Paul Collins said the Sudbury bowser was used just six times in Essex and six in Suffolk during the past year. Essex Fire and Rescue Service has also just had a new bowser installed in Halstead, which Sudbury fire crew will be able to use if necessary.

Mr Collins added: “In an ideal world, we would still like to have a water carrier at Sudbury, but it’s very important to state that we have two very new frontline fire appliances based in Sudbury, and to remember that all fire appliances carry water and have sophisticated electronic equipment to help them locate water.”

He added: “The resources that we have need to be able to be used all round the county, not just in Sudbury, so with the current cuts to budgets, this is the best we can possibly achieve.”

Suffolk’s two new water carriers will have dual water and foam capability.

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