Firefighters are appealing to the people of Rutland to help stop the proposed cuts to the service which, they say, will “categorically increase the chances” of serious injury or death at road accidents and fires.
Crews from the Oakham fire station have been out and about at markets and other events explaining to the public what the cuts mean and have been posting ‘You can help STOP this’ leaflets illustrating the implications.
Among the cuts proposed by Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service are axing one of two fire engines at Oakham, along with the 10 retained fire crew who man it, and reducing the number of fire fighters on the remaining appliance to four from five.
Mark Draper, a member of the Fire Brigades Union, who is watch manager at Oakham fire station said: “If those cuts go ahead, it would categorically take us longer to rescue people from fires and road traffic collisions.
“We will be doing the same work with fewer people so the chances of serious injury and death will increase.”
The proposed cuts, which the public are being consulted on until December 31, are aimed at reducing a £7.5m funding gap over the next five years that the region’s fire and rescue service faces.
The public consultation includes asking people if they are prepared to pay more in their council tax to avoid the cuts.
Mr Draper said in the last week alone crews from Oakham fire station had attended eight road traffic collisions where they were “actively involved”.
He said in those situations one person is in overall charge, a second person is responsible for the trauma care of victims, the third person works on the pump, because of the potential for fire, and two people carry out the cutting and rescue as it is not safe for one person to carry out that task.
Mr Draper asked: “If you had to take away any one of those crew members, who do you take away?
“Clearly no-one because if you do the rescue will take longer. And under such circumstance every second counts.”
Oakham firefighter Anthony Smith, also a union member, said in the event of a fire too, each of the crew have specific roles with one person required to remain outside to monitor the position of those who go in.
He said: “The two biggest jobs we go to are house fires and car crashes.
“In house fires we can go in and rescue people on every single occasion.
“If our numbers are reduced we will be able to go in only in exceptional circumstances because of health and safety regulations.”
The exceptional circumstances are when any of the occupants can pinpoint the “specific location” of the person who needs rescuing.
Mr Draper said: “In my 25 years as a firefighter that has been very unusual. The safety of that crew depends on the person outside who is monitoring them.
“It’s like any job, if you have fewer people it will take longer. In most cases it’s an inconvenience. In the case of a fire or road accident it’s potentially life-threatening.”
The public consultation started two weeks ago and will run until the end of the year.
Mr Draper is urging everyone in Rutland to take part in the consultation because, he says, the county has vast rural areas and appliances from out of the area will take far longer to reach them.
Residents can register their views on the proposals at www.leicestershire-fire.gov.uk/IRMP. They can also write to: IRMP Consultation, Information Management, Service Headquarters, 12 Geoff Monk Way, Birstall, Leicstershire, LE4 3BU.
The FBU members at Oakham Fire Station have put together a letter outlining their objections, which residents can pick up from the fire station in South Street, sign and return to the address above.