Strike warning if fire service cuts approved
FIREFIGHTERS say industrial action could be on the cards if proposed cuts to Ilfracombe Fire Station go ahead.
Union members have vowed to lobby politicians at all levels to fight the cuts which they believe are unsafe and dangerous for both firefighters and the public.
Residents from all over the country have signed the Journal's Save Our Station campaign petition which has so far gathered more than 330 supporters.
You can sign the petition at www.thisisnorthdevon.co.uk.
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Proposals to axe the daytime shift at Ilfracombe Fire Station and turn it into a fully retained station have been approved by the Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service (DSFRS) Authority.
The proposals, which aim to save £5.5m over the next two years, were moved at a meeting at the service's headquarters in near Exeter on Friday.
A 12-week public consultation period on the plans will run from January 28, to April 22.
During the meeting Fire Brigades Union (FBU) spokesman Dave Chapple labelled the changes as, "the worst we have faced in the service's history" and said it was the union's view that government policy, which has forced the service into making the savings, is wrong.
He also attacked the service over its reluctance to seek a rise in council tax to prevent the cuts, an option which is available to it.
"Please don't take any options off the table," he asked.
"The government will keep cutting if we keep accepting it."
Plymouth councillor Alwyn Thomas asked chief fire officer Lee Howell what the difference between turn out time for a manned and retained station is.
Mr Howell said at a manned station an engine can be on the road within 60 seconds of receiving a call. At a retained station, he said, the target turn out time is five minutes.
The reality though, Mr Chapple said, is at retained stations turn out times are often between seven and ten minutes, which can make a big difference when a crew is called to a fire.
Speaking after the meeting FBU chairman and Ilfracombe resident Bob Walker said he was very disappointed and concerned about the implications of the cuts.
Mr Walker fully supports the Journal's campaign to save the Ilfracombe station.
He said: "When people ring 999 they want to see a big red fire engine turn up as soon as possible.
"If these changes go through they won't see that engine anywhere near as quickly, in fact it could be seriously delayed.
"House fires can develop within three minutes to something very serious, so time is of the essence."
Mr Walker said the FBU condemns the cuts, which it believes will be dangerous for the public and firefighters alike.
He said: "We will undertake a campaign to oppose these cuts which will include lobbying politicians at all levels and could include industrial action.
"We would urge people to sign the Journal's campaign and help save this valuable service."
Mr Walker said he also believes the entire consultation period will be undermined by council elections.
He said: "There has been no date given for a decision on these proposals because at the end of the consultation period the local elections will be in full swing.
"This means there could be a completely new fire authority by the time a decision comes to be made.
"These members won't know the issues and we will have to spend all this time lobbying them again. It's a big concern."
To sign the Journal's Save Our Station Campaign visit www.thisisnorthdevon.co.uk.