Uckfield will lose its dedicated second fire engine under changes agreed yesterday (September 3) by East Sussex Fire Authority.
However, a second appliance will still be based at the fire station but labelled as part of the East Sussex Fire and Rescue (ESFRS) “spare appliance fleet”.
Fire authority members decided to remove the second appliance from the town. Bexhill, Crowborough, Newhaven, Lewes, Battle and Rye suffer a similar fate.
All these locations will be formally designated as single appliance stations.
Uckfield, Bexhill, Crowborough and Newhaven will be designated one-pump resilience stations through an overall redistribution of operational vehicles.
The fire authority said: “These stations will, therefore, have access to an additional fire appliance located at the stations.”
“These will be utilised as flexible service-wide assets providing part of the service’s spare appliance fleet, as well as being operationally available at the stations for response to incidents, if required.”
Members of the fire authority also agreed to:
Introduce a one-watch duty system at Uckfield, Bexhill, Crowborough, Lewes and Newhaven to work over seven days with an establishment of nine.
An original proposal was for the full-time firefighters in Uckfield to be on station, Monday to Friday, during the day.
The agreed changes are part of the adoption of a new Integrated Risk Management Plan (IRMP).
In a statement, the fire authority said the IRMP had a number of key aims including:
- Maintaining 24 fire stations;
- Improving risk cover and resilience by resourcing, as far as practicable, 24/7 availability of some fire engines that have historically had limited availability; and
- Balancing resources across the Service to reinvest in expanding building safety and prevention work we do in communities as well as firefighter safety.
Chairman of the authority, Roy Galley said:
“It is the responsibility of the fire authority to provide a fire and rescue service and to ensure its efficiency.
“More than that, we want to ensure that the community we serve and those who work for the fire and rescue service have the opportunity to shape its future.
“The proposals brought to the fire authority for debate followed a wide ranging consultation, involving an online survey, forums and other two-way communication.
“I am pleased that these decisions, which were based on evidence and engagement, were agreed and the fire authority is committed to ensuring this engagement continues.”
Chief Fire Officer Dawn Whittaker said:
“It is vital that our available resources are used in the most effective way to mitigate the risks our communities face, whether they be response to emergencies, our educational work or improving building safety.
“These decisions allow us to move forward with our original aims which will increase our resilience, and allow our resources to be deployed to where they are most needed such as building safety and community engagement.
“There is now a great deal of work ahead and we will naturally take into account any new emerging information, data and evidence when implementing these decisions.
“Our focus will remain on those who live in and visit East Sussex and Brighton and Hove, and their safety.”
The statement also highlighted the following decisions:
There will no longer be automatic attendance to fire alarms operating in “low risk” commercial premises.
Plans will be developed to work with businesses to reduce the numbers of unwanted fire signals (AFAs) attended “through a range of measures”.
Attendance to people trapped in lifts will be continued.
The fire authority said: “Confinement in a lift is traumatic for anyone, but even more so for those with a disability or a severe health condition, those who are elderly, or for those with young children.
A swift response by the ESFRS [East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service] is the right one, given the training of the firefighters and the equipment that they have to hand. This service should continue.”
Calls to birds trapped in netting will continue to be answered.
The fire authority said: “If birds are not rescued by the ESFRS, then there is the potential for greater risk to members of the public in attempting to rescue trapped or dying birds themselves.
“It also places the burden back on to animal charities who are suffering huge financial consequences because of the [Covid-19] pandemic.
“It is also a humanitarian gesture, and this service should continue.”
Originally it was proposed to cease attending calls to trapped birds and lift malfunctions where people were not in distress to give time for owners to rectify the problem.
The fire authority agreed an additional proposal stating:
In the event that there is an increase in government funding to Fire Service, the authority agrees to review the IRMP to reflect the changed position.
Commentary from UckfieldNews.com
The fire authority has moved from its original proposals.
However, there are four vital questions which go unanswered.
ONE: How will the additional fire appliance availability be guaranteed as this still relies upon ‘on call’ firefighter cover which cannot be guaranteed, whatever changes are made to contracts?
TWO: With three more posts cut from each day crewed station, will the whole-time firefighters provide cover at night to guarantee a fire appliance being available?
THREE: What is a “resilience station”?
FOUR: What reason is there for any on-call staff to be available when there may not be a fire appliance for them to crew?
The revised proposals are nothing but a re-jig of the originals and will see all six-day crewed stations fail to provide a second appliance for the benefit of their communities.
From our files