West Suffolk: Safety fears after fire service move water carrier from Sudbury to Leiston

FIREFIGHTERS fear parts of west Suffolk could be left vulnerable after one of the service’s three 9,000-litre water tankers was relocated to the other side of the county.

The water carrier was shifted from Sudbury fire station – which recently received a �1.4million upgrade – to Leiston on Tuesday.

The only other vehicle of this kind in the county is based at Thetford.

Members of the Fire Brigades Union believe leaving Sudbury without a water carrier could increase the fire-risk to farms and other properties in rural parts of the county.

But Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service are confident vehicles at Newmarket and Leiston will be able to provide adequate cover.

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One firefighter and union member, who did not want be named, said there had been no consultation before the vehicle was moved.

He said: “I believe the water carriers were placed in specific locations for a reason and by taking this one away from Sudbury, the next nearest vehicle to certain parts of the county will be more than 40 minutes away – by which time it is likely the lack of water could greatly increase damage to property or even put lives at risk.”

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A spokesman for Suffolk fire service confirmed the vehicle had been removed because of a mechanical fault that could not be repaired. The water carriers, which have been in service for 15 years, are all due for replacement.

He said: “The water carrier at Sudbury was not based there because of the particular risk in Sudbury.

“All fire engines on our 35 fire stations carry one-and-a-half tonnes of water for immediate use and are able to replenish their tanks from a number of water sources.

“We have also invested in new mapping technology on all fire engines which shows the nearest available fire hydrant to them wherever they are in the county.”

He added: “We are confident that the water carriers at Newmarket and Leiston will be able to provide good coverage across the county and our neighbouring fire services of Norfolk, Essex and Cambridgeshire all have water carriers that we can call on if required.”

But FBU national executive for East Anglia, Keith Handscomb, said: “In a recent major incident at Felsted School, the Essex water carrier wasn’t available so we needed one from Suffolk and the Sudbury vehicle was the closest.”

He added: “I would hope there has been adequate consultation over this move and any reason to move it should be on a positive basis.”

The fire service spokesman said the vehicle had not been moved because of budget cuts, adding: “A number of issues are taken into account when we review our fire engines. These include their operational use, new vehicle technology, potential alternative arrangements, and also the financial situation to ensure that decisions are taken based on providing tax payers with value for money.”

Eight new fire engines have recently been ordered for Suffolk, and a new aerial appliance for Ipswich is due to arrive mid-2013.

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