Uckfield firefighters are inviting members of the public to talk to them about a review of service provision in rural areas conducted by the East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service.
They are inviting people to call in at the fire station in Bell Farm Road, Uckfield, any day between 8.30am and 6.30pm to discuss the issues with them.
Firefighters said: “There is the potential for fire cover in Uckfield and surrounding villages to be compromised if the management proposals of this review are accepted by the Fire Authority.”
They added: “Local firefighters have challenged what they see as “loaded” and “misleading” statistics during staff meetings with senior management but fear that local focus groups and the public will not fully understand the potential implications of the proposals.”
Uckfield Fire Station is currently crewed by wholetime firefighters who go to the station during the day and are on call from home at night along with retained (part time firefighters).
For this they receive a housing allowance or fire service house to ensure that they live within a prescribed time and distance from the fire station. Firefighters say the current duty system was instigated by management to guarantee fire cover and provide flexibility across the service.
The review proposes instead that wholetime firefighters should staff the station during the day but that night cover be provided by retained personnel whose numbers would have to be increased and who may need additional training to ensure competence in the use of special appliances.
The review says: “Alongside the significant benefits that would come about through greater employee flexibility, there would be annual revenue savings as a result of no longer having to pay allowances to staff and capital assets will also be released through no longer providing service houses.
“These changes can be achieved with no impact upon overall service delivery and attendance standards.”
Uckfield firefighters said: “We are concerned there won’t be the benefits the review suggests and that is why we are inviting members of the public to come to the station and learn more about the potential implications.”
Other proposals in the review include relocating Newhaven and Lewes fire stations with a recommendation that the Newhaven station be moved nearer to Peacehaven. It is also recommended that fire stations at Burwash, Mayfield and Herstmonceux are no longer crewed during the day – when there aren't enough firefighters to crew the fire engine – but to guarantee a full crew at night “when better use could be made of them”.
East Sussex Fire Authority is holding a public meeting about the review on Thursday, August 5, at the fire and rescue training centre in Batts Bridge Road, Maresfield, at 7pm.
Read more about the review on the East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service website.