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The Fire Brigades Union says it has had confirmation that plans to close eight Kent fire stations will mean an increase in the time it takes for crews to get to emergencies.
It claims details have emerged during the consultation process into the proposals which show, in some cases, the wait could be up to 4 and a half minutes longer.
The planned closures of Halling, Horton Kirby, St Margaret's, Sturry, Matfield, Queenborough, Rusthall and Seal are part of a review of services by Kent Fire and Rescue Service which were announced last month. Then, bosses said the plans were about bringing the service into the 21st Century, and moving engines and staff to where they are needed most.
Speaking at the launch of the plans in October, Ann Millington, Chief Executive of Kent Fire and Rescue Service said: "“We understand that the public worry about any change to their local fire service, and that is often based on a belief that a single fire station looks after their town or village.
"In fact emergency cover is delivered on a county-wide basis, and to do that effectively we must have stations in the right locations to best meet local need at the right time.
"If we are to keep local people safe then we can’t remain fixed in time. We need a Service designed for the 21st century needs of Kent and Medway. That means a flexible approach to deal with changing local needs, well-equipped firefighters and stations located in the right place."
Today the Fire Brigade's Union has released a statement saying the plans are bad news for Kent and is calling on KFRS to rethink them before a final decision is made in February.
FBU Kent Brigade Secretary, Mark Simmons said: "To wait an extra 4½ minutes for the arrival of a fire engine is very concerning. The fire service motto is seconds count, and any increase to response times would have an impact.
"The quicker we can get to an incident the better chance we have of achieving a successful outcome. Fires develop very quickly, and it’s important we get there as soon as possible.
"Fighting fires is dangerous in any circumstances, but tackling a fire that has been left longer to develop creates added risks to firefighters as well as increasing the possibility of fatalities or serious casualties."