Uckfield Fire Station could lose one of its two fire engines under proposals that have now gone out for consultation.
The proposal could also see the number of whole-time firefighters reduced.
The cuts are part of wider plans published by East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service (ESFRS) which are out for public consultation.
The Fire Brigades Union has described the proposals as “drastic changes” to how services are delivered.
The fire authority has published a document called Planning for a Safer Future – Integrated Risk Management Plan 2020-25.
At a meeting last week, the authority decided to go out to consultation, despite opposition from some members who felt it was wrong to take such action during the coronavirus pandemic.
Members were told: “At the heart of these plans is a robust and detailed Operational Response Review.
“Through this process, officers have assessed our community risks, using a range of sophisticated analytical tools to identify where incidents might happen, when they might occur and how serious they could be.
“Using this data alongside historical information about demand allows us to identify options to better target our resources, including firefighters and appliances, more effectively, resulting in a better balance of prevention, protection and response.”
The report also explained why the consultation should go ahead as planned.
“If the Authority were not to proceed to public consultation, this would result in a significant delay to the Service’s ability to meet the potential financial challenges that lay ahead.
“There is significant uncertainty about our funding beyond 2020/21. The Government is planning to review how much it spends on public services, how much of this goes to the fire service, how this is divided between each fire authority and how much of this funding comes from business rates.
The proposals for Uckfield were foreshadowed in March in an exclusive report on this website.
What’s in the consultation?
The ESFRS consultation document says the second fire engine at Uckfield is under-utilised, similar to other places in the county.
“The public would still have a 24/7 response from these stations but it would mean that, if a second fire engine was required at an incident, it would come from a different fire station.
Efficient use of resources
“However, this is often what happens already, particularly during the day time when low on-call firefighter availability means that these fire engines are only available between 10-50% of the time.”
The proposal, ESFRS says, would ensure a more efficient use of resources.
Uckfield fire station is crewed by wholetime firefighters and retained, on-call, firefighters who respond to emergencies when needed. The on-call firefighters typically have other jobs.
Weekend and night-time cover
The full-time firefighters at Uckfield currently work a combination of what is known as “positive” and “standby” hours over a 24-hour period.
The positive hours are at the fire station and the standby time is worked from an on-call location, within five minutes of the fire station.
The proposal is to introduce a “day only” crewing model.
Full-time firefighters would be on station, Monday to Friday, during the day.
Coverage at night and weekends would be totally in the hands of on-call firefighters.
The consultation document states:
“The differences between the existing system and day-only is that day-only does not require the full-time staff to provide additional on-call cover during the evening and weekends.”
Two options are shown for full-time crewing – both a reduction in the current level.
The consultation runs until June 19.
Birds and lifts
Other smaller changes in the proposals would see firefighters no longer rescuing birds trapped in netting, consideration given to delaying responses to lift malfunctions (where people are not vulnerable or in distress), to give owners time to rectify the problem and charging a fee for attending.