Yarmouth and Gorleston fire cover could be cut in half to save costs

Christian Hacon (left) and Richard Miles (Right) with the Fire Brigade petition. Picture Archant

Christian Hacon (left) and Richard Miles (Right) with the Fire Brigade petition. Picture Archant - Credit: Archant

Fire service cover in Great Yarmouth and Gorleston could be cut in half during the nights if new cost-cutting proposals are approved, claims the union.

Gorleston Fire Station is one of those targeted in new proposals to cut costs. Picture: James Bass

Gorleston Fire Station is one of those targeted in new proposals to cut costs. Picture: James Bass - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2011

A draft integrated risk management plan, which is available for the public to see until January, outlines all of the proposed ways of cutting down the Norfolk Fire Service's costs following a reduction in funding from the government.

Proposals include a reduction of the Yarmouth retained crew, with the number dropping from 24 to 12. It would also see the loss of one fire engine.

The proposals also include a cut in hours of the full-time crew in Gorleston by 12 hours which means the service would effectively lose another engine throughout the night.

Currently there are two full-time fire engines and two part-time fire engines, which can carry up to five firefighters each, covering the Yarmouth and Gorleston area. but the cover and response times would drop significantly should the plans go ahead, say the union.

Following the cuts there would be three fire engines ready to respond during the day, with only two remaining to respond to calls at night-time.

Secretary of the Norfolk Fire Brigade's Union Kevin Game said: 'At the moment we have two fire engines ready to respond at a minute's notice. If these proposals go ahead, on a night-time we would only have one fire engine ready to respond within that time and we would have to wait a further 10-16 minutes for the second fire engine.'

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The proposals would also cause problems for fire crews once they arrive at the scene.

Mr Game said: 'For domestic fires we have to have a minimum of nine fire fighters at the scene to resolve it safely. If these proposals go ahead we would only have four or five people on the scene straight away so we would be limited with what we can do to fit in with the safety laws.

'We would have to consider taking an extra risk with our own lives to go into the building.'

Martham fire station was under threat in the last set of proposals but has since been removed, however according to one fireman these new plans would still affect the village.

Yarmouth fireman Richard Miles said: 'Martham may be off the new list but this still affects them because we would be calling them for support and back-up if we needed it.

'This would leave Martham and the surrounding villages with no fire engine cover at all whilst they are helping us. We are already stretched to the limit so to think what it could be like if these proposals go ahead is just horrendous.'

Mr Game said: 'The service receives 15pc less funding than other services in the country and yet we have already been hit with a 25pc cut in the past and they just keep on coming.

'We are below the national average when it comes to running costs with the cost currently at around £30 per head of the population - We are a very, very lean service as it is.'

Retained firefighter Christian Hacon joined Mr Miles in Yarmouth Market Place asking for residents to sign a petition against the proposals.

He said: 'It's not really about me losing my job, it is about me doing my part to protect the community. I live in an area which has suffered plenty of fires from arson attacks over the years and it is obvious how much we need the fire cover. '

So far the petition has received between 800-1,000 signatures but the fire service are keen for the public to keep on showing their support.

Mr Game added: 'If you see the petition when you are out and about please stop for a chat and sign it. I would also urge everybody to go out and speak with their local MP and let their voices be heard.'

People wanting to view the proposals can do so by visiting: www.norfolkfireservice.gov.uk/nfrs.