Fire and rescue cut beyond safety levels

According to a recent article in the Herald, county councillors believe that the fire service is safer in their hands than it would be in those of the Police and Crime Commissioner.

Furthermore, the Herald expressed the view, in its Comment column, that the fire and rescue services have been transformed and are enjoying continuous improvement.

I would suggest that this newspaper should be consulting our fire fighters before coming out with views that are contrary to what is actually happening out in the real world.

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If the PCC took over the management of both fire and rescue services she could hardly do a worse job than the fire authorities has done over the past few years; they have cut the services not just to the bone but actually into it.

I am sure that the vast majority of the public has absolutely no idea how much pressure the county’s fire and rescue services are under as they try to cope with the results of financial cuts. These have resulted in fewer appliances and fewer firefighters being available to come to their aid in the event of an emergency.

You only have to read report after report in our newspapers to realise that our fire stations can no longer cope on their own with many of the fires that they are called upon to deal with.

In May last year, when a fire broke out in a high-rise block of city flats, the nearest three fire stations had to call upon appliances from two other towns, both 12 miles away, because the number of the city’s appliances had been reduced so severely. It once had at least 10, it now has 4.

In June two major fires occurred, within a short time of each other, in Brighton. The local stations could not cope on their own and extra fire engines had to come from six fire stations based in other parts of the county, one of

which had to travel the astonishing distance of 37 miles to get to the scene.

In October of the same year a school fire in the county required the use of appliances from no less than 10 fire stations, some having to travel more than 20 miles before they could go into action.

In February this year, 10 appliances had to be called in to help out at an incident as, once again, the local fire stations could not manage on their own. One machine had to travel more than 23 miles to get to the fire.

All this extra travelling time means that the engines take far longer to arrive at the fires and could so easily arrive too late to be effective. Lives could be lost.

Lives probably will be lost unless more appliances and more firefighters are made available.

It is not just large fires where this is happening. One, involving three cars, broke out at the Homebush shopping centre at Shoreham quite recently. Two appliances were called in to deal with it, one of them having to travel from Worthing, over 6 miles away.

Six miles, when the nearest fire station was directly opposite the site of the fire!

I did note that the councillors lined themselves up in front of a fire engine for the photograph but did not think to include any of the men and women who actually crewed it.

Perhaps it no longer has a crew.

I would conclude by saying that I have absolutely no connection whatsoever with either East or West Sussex Fire and Rescue Services; I am simply a member of the public who has been saddened to see these services being stripped of

appliances and their crews in order to meet financial targets.

Perhaps one of the councillors can tell me just how much money should or should not be spent to save a life.

Or should I ask the Police and Crime Commissioner?

Eric Waters

Ingleside Crescent


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