Concern mounts after a petition was launched claiming vital flood equipment and training is being planned to be moved from fire stations from Chippenham and Trowbridge to Dorset, and Stratton in Swindon. You know me, usually I jumped at the chance to expose a transgression by authority, but on this occasion, as a response from Assistant Chief Fire Officer James Mahoney suggests the service is merely aligning the way in which all stations operate interchangeably, the jury is out on this one. I know right, impartiality; is this the new me?!
Not really. It gets rather technical, and I don’t do technical. The last thing I will do is belittle the fire service for the grand job they do. So, as I’ve been asked to share news of the petition, like a real reporter, I’ll give you the low down from both sides of the argument, and it’s up to if you choose to sign it; righty then?
Becky Montague, who started the petition argues, “members of the public will have to wait an hour to be rescued safely, instead of eight minutes in the River Avon area, because Chief Fire Officer Ben Ansell has decided to remove vital equipment from Chippenham and Trowbridge stations to Dorset, and Stratton in Swindon. This will put the lives at risk of people caught in flooding in an area Mr Ansell knows to be of high risk.”
“Removing equipment and training from the firefighters means that they will respond but be unable to rescue people quickly and with the right tools. Rather than watch people die, they will be forced to carry out dangerous rescues without the vital safety equipment they need.”
“There is no flood risk in Swindon like there is in the Chippenham, Bradford-on-Avon and Trowbridge areas. Mr Ansell will put residents of Wiltshire at risk and put firefighters in danger.”
This sounds like cause for alarm, and I’m grateful for our reader bringing to my attention. They’re concerned and angered, “We don’t distribute emergency equipment based on geography we do it based on risk otherwise we would have a fire station in the middle of Salisbury plain, we don’t do that because there’s no risk there,” they informed, “The flooding risk is in the river Avon area not in Stratton in Swindon. They’re going to put the council tax precept up again this year, what are Wiltshire residents going to get for that, other than the grateful thanks of Dorset residents for part-funding the service that they provide from the fire service?”
However, Assistant Chief Fire Officer James Mahoney had this response; “A strategic review of the technical rescue provision of Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service has been carried out. This considered risk and demand across the whole Service area; evidence from historical incident data; geographical station locations; and neighbouring Service capability. A decision on the placement of these facilities is now being considered internally.”
“Technical rescue includes technical search, rescue from swift water, rescue from height, bariatric rescue, confined space rescue and large animal rescue capability. There are currently six stations providing differing aspects of technical rescue across the two counties of Dorset and Wiltshire. In addition to these technical rescue stations, all fire stations have initial water safety equipment and training, and a large number of our stations also have wading team capability. The provisions at these six stations are not consistent, and most stations do not provide all of the capabilities listed above. As a combined Service, this is neither effective, efficient or resilient.”
“Whilst technical rescue is not a funded statutory duty for the Fire and Rescue Service, we recognise the importance of having this capability commensurate with the risks faced within our communities across the whole of Dorset and Wiltshire. We are looking to enhance, not diminish, our capability, allowing us a more strategic approach to the positioning of the key elements of technical rescue – which will also add greater resilience by aligning the way in which all stations operate interchangeably.
“Staff and representative bodies have been briefed, and given the opportunity to contribute their views throughout and engage in this process, and we will be carrying out public consultation on our draft Community Safety Plan for 2021-25 from 17 February to 13 May 2021.”
If I remember rightly, when our estate flooded some years ago, a fire service came from Yeovil to help, stating Wiltshire forces were preoccupied elsewhere. Understandably, this took some time for them arrive, but had it not been for the fire services to be integrated, it may not have happened at all. On the other hand, the dubious line from the Assistant Chief Fire Officer’s statement, “technical rescue is not a funded statutory duty for the Fire and Rescue Service,” concerns me. What constitutes a technical rescue? And if it’s not a statutory duty, why call yourself Fire and Rescue Service?
And, as the Gazette reports, “Summerham and Seend Wiltshire councillor Jonathon Seed, who is also running for the Police and Crime Commissioner post, has pledged to take the case up with MPs saying the decision is outrageous,” well, something is iffy with it; deffo.
Being a man of the people, who I’d like to hear the views of is an actual local firefighter. Your anonymity will be respected if you contact us; but we need the opinion of the men on the ground. In general, I’m at my tether’s end with bureaucratic nonsense from pen-pushers, and I urge any firefighter concerned to please do let us know.
Here’s the petition, should you decide to sign it: https://www.change.org/p/dorset-wiltshire-fire-authority-stop-the-removal-of-vital-rescue-equipment-from-wiltshire-fire-stations