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Press Release - Service announces proposals for change to keep communities safe
Posted on 19/06/2019

The way the fire and rescue service operates across Devon and Somerset could undergo its most significant change for 50 years under new proposals announced today (Wednesday 19 June).

Some stations attend only a handful of fires each year and have more resources than they need. Elsewhere, more resources are needed to improve the response the Service can provide.

The proposals published today seek to address these issues and also create more flexibility and capability to deliver targeted prevention and protection work to reach the most vulnerable members of society and help keep them safe.

The risk has changed in the Service area with new housing developments and new road networks in place but most of our fire stations are in the same place they were 50 years ago. We need to ensure our fire stations and fire engines are located to be in the right place to meet the demand.

Risk and our activity has reduced in some areas and increased in other areas. The Service therefore needs to ensure we are as effective as it can be with the resources available within the context of a shrinking budget. The Service wants to significantly increase its fire prevention visits and building protection audits to make both people and buildings safer. The Service also needs to improve the reliability of our ‘on-call’ model which last year saw 20% of our on-call fire engines not available due to lack of crew.

Importantly, rather than just responding to emergencies when they have occurred from the existing fire stations, the Service has outlined an option that puts in place six additional wholetime crewed fire engines during the day that will move to where the risk is highest. Sometimes, these will be located in urban areas and sometimes they will be located in rural areas – the Service will use data to inform where emergencies are most likely to occur and will try to be in the right place at the right time to improve response as a result.

To fund these changes, the Service will need to consider closing a number of low risk/low activity fire stations, removal of low risk/low activity fire engines and make some other changes to the way in which some fire engines are crewed.    

Demand for Fire and Rescue Service response is reducing, as is the amount of money the Service receives, so important decisions need to be made to ensure the budget is spent wisely and efficiently.

People’s lifestyles and the shape of the population have changed dramatically during this time and the Fire Service needs to adapt to these changes. New fire safety measures, building regulations, the smoking ban and even the humble oven chip together with preventative work has resulted in people being safer than ever before and a reduction in the number of fires. More changes in society, such as an ageing population, now mean the Service needs to work harder to protect those most at risk from fires.

The Service has carefully reviewed where it should locate its staff and appliances to minimise risk and provide better response coverage. It has also closely examined the risks associated with different communities and the activity levels of all fire appliances over the last five years.  The changes are designed to ensure the right number of staff and appliances are located in each community and to free-up more time for safety and prevention work. 

Lee Howell added: “We all know that the main way to save lives is to prevent fires from happening in the first place. As a Service, we have made great progress but we feel we can and should be doing more to make people and buildings safer. At the same time, we need to improve our ability to respond to emergencies and ensure we better match our resources to our risks. These proposals aim to do just that.

“We do understand that communities affected by these changes will want more information and we will be engaging with them in the coming months to listen to their views. This will also be a difficult time for the staff affected and we are committed to working with them to consider how we might provide options as we move forward.”

The proposals will be considered by Members of the Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Authority next week. Should the Authority agree, the proposals will then go forward for a 12 week public consultation from 1 July to 20 September 2019.

There will be a number of ways in which the public can give their views, including a series of public drop-in exhibitions. Further information has been published on the website www.dsfire.gov.uk.
Ends

Options

The six options which will be presented to the Fire Authority are as follows:

Option 1 – Station closures

Station closures at Appledore, Ashburton, Budleigh Salterton, Colyton, Kingston, Porlock, Topsham* and Woolacombe.
*Note: One appliance from Topsham will be relocated to Middlemoor.

Option 2 – Station closures and removal of third appliances

Option 1, plus: Bridgwater, Taunton, Torquay and Yeovil Fire Stations all have three fire engines (two of which are crewed by ‘on call staff’). It is proposed that one of these ‘on call’ fire engines is removed from each of the four stations outlined.

Option 3 – Station closures, removal of third and second appliances

Option 2, plus: Crediton, Lynton, Martock and Totnes all have two fire engines. It is proposed that one of these fire engines is removed from each of the four stations outlined.

Option 4 – Station closures, removal of third and second appliances and change of status to day crewing

Option 3, plus: Barnstaple, Exmouth and Paignton currently have whole time crew on these fire stations 24/7. It is proposed that the station still operates on a 24/7 basis but at night, the fire engines are crewed by ‘on call’ staff.

Option 5 – Station closures, removal of third and second appliances, change of status to day crewing and to on-call at night only

Option 4, plus: Brixham, Chard, Dartmouth, Frome, Honiton, Ilfracombe, Okehampton, Sidmouth, Tavistock, Teignmouth, Tiverton, Wellington, Wells and Williton Fire Stations all have two fire engines. Rather than take away the second fire engine from these stations, it is proposed that the first fire engine is still crewed 24/7 with ‘on call’ staff but the second fire engine is crewed at night.

Option 6 - Station closures, removal of third and second appliances, change of status to day crewing, on-call at night only and introduction of day crewed roving appliances

Option 5, plus: It is proposed that six day-crewed fire engines (with trained Firefighters on the fire engine) are introduced which will be deployed in areas of forecasted high risk and/or where gaps in ‘on call’ cover is presented. These firefighters will undertake additional fire prevention visits and building fire protection inspections to help make people and buildings safer. They will be available to immediately respond to incidents and improve response times in the area located. Note: these 6 fire wholetime crewed (Full Time Equivalent) fire engines are in addition to the current wholetime fire stations that will be unaffected during the day. These existing wholetime fire stations are: Bridgwater, Taunton, Yeovil, Exeter (Danes Castle), Exeter (Middlemoor), Exmouth, Barnstaple, Torquay, Paignton, Plymouth (Crownhill), Plymouth (Greenbank), Plymouth (Camels Head).     

Background information

Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service

• Largest non-metropolitan fire and rescue service in the country
• We are also the largest employer of on-call firefighters in the country
• 85 fire stations
• 121 fire appliances
• 2,000 members of staff, including 1,500 operational staff

Incident statistics

• Fires reduced by 36% in Devon and Somerset over ten years from 2008/9-2017/18
• Last year, we had the lowest number of domestic fires ever recorded across both counties, 929 in 2018/19
• In 2018/19, 35% of our incidents were false alarms and only 28% were fires
• 33 of our 121 frontline fire appliances attended on average less than 1 incident per week last year
• 56 of our fire station areas have fewer than 10 fires a year in people’s homes (average from 2014/15 to 2018/19)
• Eight of our fire station areas have fewer than 10 fires of all types a year, including minor fires (average from 2014/15 to 2018/19)
• The risk of dwelling fires is concentrated into a very small proportion of our Service area: 4.6% of the populated areas of the two counties contains 75% of our predicted dwelling fires.

Staff statistics

• Wholetime firefighters work from a fire station and are available to respond from the fire station directly to emergency calls at a moment’s notice. The Fire Service is their primary employer. 
• ‘On call’ firefighters have other primary employment but attend fire stations as and when required. In 2018, eight of our 121 on-call fire appliances were available for less than 30% of the year. In 2018, we had 80% availability.
• We have to regularly recruit for on-call firefighters as often their primary employment changes which results in them not being available to respond to emergency calls.

Finances

• The Service has already saved £12.2 million over the last five years but estimates that it needs to find a further £8.4 million in the next three years.

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