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1 April 2016, 07:35
Dorset Fire and Rescue have now formally merged with Wiltshire - to save them a combined £6 million a year.
The new joint service has 1,000 firefighters in an area home to 1.45 million people, with its HQ now in Salisbury.
Dorset's Chief Officer Darran Gunter is leading it and he's told Heart people in the county will still be safe and response times won't be affected, with the same number of fire engines available.
With 50 fire stations, 73 fire engines and more than 1,000 full-time and on-call firefighters, the Service will work with over 1.45 million residents in the local authority areas of Bournemouth, Dorset, Poole, Swindon and Wiltshire.
Darran Gunter, formerly Chief Fire Officer of Dorset, was appointed as CFO (Designate) of the new Service in February 2015. He and his Senior Leadership Team will now be based at the new Headquarters in Salisbury, which form part of the Five Rivers Health and Wellbeing Centre owned by Wiltshire Council.
The former headquarters buildings in Potterne (Wiltshire) and Poundbury (Dorset) will continue to be used as Area offices, with a full review of the Service's estate being undertaken.
A new joint Service Control Centre was opened at Potterne in August 2015 and has been dealing with 999 calls for both counties since that time.
Darran Gunter said: "This is an historic day for the Fire and Rescue Services in Dorset and Wiltshire. We have brought together two small organisations, both of which had a fine history of partnership working and developing innovative ideas for the benefit of their communities. By combining, we forecast making annual savings in excess of £6 million, and we are far better placed to manage the continuing challenges of reduced Government funding.
"We have made these savings through streamlined support services, reducing the number of senior and middle managers, and finding more efficient and effective ways of working. Every fire station remains open, every fire engine remains available, we will be appointing eight new wholetime firefighters - our first recruitment in more than seven years - and we are keen to bring in even more on-call firefighters to work with us to protect their local communities."
He added: "Since the decision to explore combination was first made in December 2013, a huge amount of work has been done by both officers and Elected Members. I would particularly like to pay personal tribute to the outgoing Chief Fire Officer of Wiltshire, Simon Routh-Jones, whose absolute belief in combination was vital, and we would not be celebrating this new Service had it not been for the dedication and professionalism shown by him and so many other staff across the whole organisation."
Cllr Rebecca Knox, Chairman of Dorset Fire Authority, and Cllr Christopher Devine, Chairman of Wiltshire & Swindon Fire Authority, said: "Bringing together our two organisations will allow us to maintain and, hopefully, improve the high level of service that our communities have rightly come to expect from us. We are extremely proud of the efforts made by both Elected Members and staff to bring us to the cusp of this new era, and we are all completely committed to changing and saving lives across Bournemouth, Dorset, Poole, Swindon and Wiltshire."