Who thinks these things up? According to the Herald (April 26), there is a proposal to lower the number of West Sussex firefighters to just four on each engine, and even, quote, ‘fewer than four when necessary’.
If this actually happens the result will be that more appliances will have to be sent to incidents because there will be shortage of staff to deal with them. For example, we have all seen on our television scenes of road crashes where firefighters are cutting off car roofs. They invariably involve more than one fire engine because the job cannot be carried out by a single crew, even if it has a full complement of five.
However, if this idea of smaller crews ever comes about, then more than a couple of engines will be needed to make up the number of the men and women required to rescue the trapped passengers; instead of dispatching two appliances the service will need to send at least three.
Except, for much of the time, it won’t have three to send because, according to Labour councillor Michael Jones, there are times when up to half the county’s fire engines cannot be used because retained firefighters are not available.
He also said that he had been told that as few as ten fire engines are available some weekends. Ten? Just ten, when West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service has 33 water tender ladders (fire engines to you and me) and two ariel ladder platforms in its 25 fire stations?
All of this is as a result of the cuts that have been made to our Fire and Rescue Services since 2008, which have resulted in thousands of firefighters, together with their appliances and equipment, being lost, and Sussex has been no exception.
For example, in recent times, a Rye-based fire engine was called upon to help out at a fire in Hastings. It took 45 minutes to get there.
A kitchen fire in Brighton was attended by six fire engines. One of them had to travel 20 miles from Uckfield to get there.
One of the appliances that attended a fire in Selsey was based 37 miles away.
There was a fire in our county last May that involved nearly 40 firefighters and eight appliances. A spokesman was quoted as saying that the fire was well established by the time they arrived. I didn’t find that surprising, considering that, between them, these fire engines had travelled over 70 miles to get to the outbreak.
The situation regarding the county’s two fire services really is dire and affects every single one of the people of Sussex, their homes and their businesses, and yet there is now this talk of taking one firefighter away from each appliance.
Our fire service has already been cut to the bone and now someone at County Hall wants to actually cut right into it. What are they trying to do? Kill it off entirely and tell us all to go out and buy our own fire extinguishers?
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