Questions raised over revised cuts to east coast fire services

Firefighters at the scene of a fire at Lowestoft Touring Caravans on South Lowestoft Industrial Esta

Firefighters at the scene of a fire at Lowestoft Touring Caravans on South Lowestoft Industrial Estate earlier this year. PHOTO: Nick Butcher - Credit: Nick Butcher

Questions have been raised about the impact replacing a village's fire engine with a smaller rapid response vehicle will have on emergency services along the east coast.

Campaigners against cuts to Suffolk's fire service scored a partial victory when the county council announced it was abandoning its plan to close Wrentham fire station, between Lowestoft and Southwold, following a strong public backlash.

But chief fire officer Mark Hardingham said that in order to make it affordable to keep Wrentham fire station open, he would have to replace the current fire engine with a cheaper rapid response vehicle.

'There was an important principle about maintaining a fire station in a rural community,' he explained.

'We've found an opportunity to do that at a reduced cost.'

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Mr Hardingham has said he would envisage the new vehicle carrying about four firefighters and equipment to deal with road traffic accidents and fires.

He argued that rapid response vehicles are becoming more widely used by fire and rescue services across the country to help deal with incidents, as well as get to scenes quickly and report back on whether further help is required.

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But Phil Johnston, chairman of the Fire Brigades Union in Suffolk, called the vehicles 'inadequate' and said that some of the vehicles 'don't follow what's in our operational guidelines'.

He added: 'They're all right for bin fires, but maybe that bin fire will turn into a house fire.'

The original proposals were made as part of plans to save £1.3m from the fire services budget.

They also included removing fire engines across the county, including the on-call fire engine at Lowestoft South – a move the council has decided to press ahead with.

It will also reduce the number of on-call firefighters in Wrentham from 11 to eight.

Mr Hardingham said he believes the revised proposals leave the area with adequate fire cover – but Roy Humphreys, of the FBU in Suffolk, has said the cuts 'will have a disproportionate impact on our ability to keep those who live, work and travel within the county safe'.

What do you think of the proposal to replace Wrentham's fire engine with a rapid response vehicle? Email

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