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6 January 2016, 07:19
Essex County Fire and Rescue Service has announced plans for its future which could see the number of full-time firefighters in the county cut by more than 40 percent.
he service's Acting Chief Fire Officer, Adam Eckley, says there are three potential options for its future which it is asking the Fire Authority to approve ahead of them going to a public consultation.
It is part of a major plan to redesign the service in the light of changing demands on it and the impact of Government cuts.
The service says it faces making between £5 million and £15 million worth of savings by 2020. It also says it has seen the number of fires it has been called out to halve in the last decade.
The proposals are as follows:
In each option fire engines at stations in Dovercourt, South Woodham Ferrers, Great Baddow, Waltham Abbey and Dunmow will be converted from the Day Crewing system - crewed fulltime during the day - to the On-Call crewing system.
In addition, the Pinnzgauer off-road vehicle will be removed from fire stations in Billericay, Manningtree, Burnham and Dunmow (although a second fire engine will be maintained at Dunmow).
ACFO Eckley insists no decisions have been made but the service needs to move with the changing needs of the county: "Demand for our operational service has been reducing quite steadily for the last 10 years.
"This means our operational fire cover model - our fire engines and fire stations - are under-utilised, and our demand for our prevention and protection services has increased to a point where we can't meet demand.
"The Fire Authority has 74 pumping appliances and looking at the impact on our services over the last five years, at no point has any more than 35 been utilised so we do have quite a significant over capacity in our ability to respond to emergencies".
ACFO Eckley says he is confident each option will still mean the service will be able to respond to 90 percent of all calls within 15 minutes (although for Proposal 3 it will have to increase its on-call crew provision), and get to potentially life threatening calls in an average of 10 minutes (measured from time of call to time of first attendance).
He also says the service has worked with different unions, including the Fire Brigade's Union, when developing the options.
The proposals will go before the Fire Authority next Wednesday (13th January) where they to approve them or not.
If they are approved, a 12-week consultation will start at the beginning of February before a final decision is made in the summer.