Fire Review Out For Consultation

1 November 2010, 16:36

A Consultation process has started into plans to make changes to the way the Fire Service in Kent is run. The consultation will run until Jan 17th, these are the statements Heart has been sent by the service

Two new state-of-the-art fire stations in Medway are among major plans being considered by Kent Fire and Rescue Service (KFRS). “With efficient, fit for purpose buildings, and firefighters in the right place, at the right time, we will be able to improve future services for the area,” says Area Manager Steve Jeffery.

Kent and Medway Fire and Rescue Authority - which oversees the way KFRS is run – has agreed today (1 November) that a number of proposals will now go out to public consultation until 17 January. In February, the Authority will review the outcomes and make a final decision.

Based on highly detailed data analysis that identifies the number and nature of incidents occurring across the area, as well as predicting new risks, the long-term plans could involve the building of two new fire stations to serve the area, ideally from better placed sites at Brompton in Gillingham and near Rochester airport.

In the short-term, the authority is considering the future of Chatham and Gillingham Fire Stations, both of which have location issues and are currently staffed by retained firefighters who generally have full time work commitments, so are not able to guarantee that they can get engines on the run at the times of highest risk.

With one fire engine and both crews moving to Medway Fire Station - based at Watling Street, Gillingham - this measure will ensure a minimum of three fire appliances are always available in the area. When sites have been identified for the two new stations and they are fully operational, KMFRA will consider whether Watling Street is still needed.

Area Manager Steve Jeffery says: “These are exciting plans which are based on a huge amount of analysis of incident data and fire risk as well as the expertise of our own staff. The public should have confidence in KFRS that we are making sure that we are able to match resources to risk so we can deliver an even better service in the future.”

A number of factors have prompted the proposals, such as the development of Chatham town centre which could affect the access to Chatham Fire Station while national legislation has led to a review of the working patterns of part-time staff.

Meanwhile, statistics also show that because of the availability of part-time firefighters and the current positioning of the stations, the first call for most incidents in the whole area goes to Medway Fire Station which is crewed round the clock. Chatham and Gillingham currently provide back-up.

Steve Jeffery added: “The public has become much better at heeding safety warnings and taking responsibility for protecting their families, homes and businesses and we have seen almost an 18 per cent fall in the number of fires over 3 years** so it is important we adapt to changing needs and demands.

“However, our crews are facing greater challenges in the types of fires and rescues they’re attending and we must ensure their safety by providing the best possible training and equipment.

“We believe that by bringing the staff and resources from these three stations together, using modern, efficient, fit for purpose buildings, we will have the right people in the right place at the right time and will be able to provide the best possible fire and rescue cover for the whole community for many years to come.”

The proposals are included in the KMFRA “Towards 2020” Integrated Risk Management Plan which is published today (1 November). For more information, please visit our website at

Area Manager Andy Merriman, who is leading the project, said: “In conjunction with staff and unions, KFRS has spent many months carefully considering how it can improve fire and rescue cover in the Thanet area.
“The safety of the people in Thanet has been at the heart of this process and we believe that these proposalswill enable us to be in the best position for current and future risks in the region.”
To achieve the improved emergency cover, Kent and Medway Fire and Rescue Authority (KMFRA) – which oversees the way KFRS is run – will be considering the following:
  • In order to enhance fire and rescue cover in Thanet, KFRS will guarantee that two engines from Ramsgate and two engines from Margate are able to respond to any incident in that area, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
  • Thanet (Westwood Cross) fire station currently houses one fire engine and three specialist appliances. The fire engine would be removed, with the staff relocated to other areas of the organisation. The site will eventually be decommissioned and sold when it is appropriate to do so. There are no plans to make staff redundant.
  • Create a new fit for purpose, modern fire station for Ramsgate that will house the specialist equipment previously kept at Thanet (Westwood Cross) fire station
Our detailed analysis shows that the resources we currently have at Thanet (Westwood Cross) station are not used in a way that best serves those that live in the area. In the past five years (January 2005 to December 2009), their designated response area - or station ground - has seen 72 per cent fewer incidents than those of comparable stations elsewhere in the county
In fact, much of the time the fire engine at Thanet (Westwood Cross) is used to respond to emergencies within the designated area of Margate and Ramsgate fire stations
Detailed analysis shows that appliances mobilised to incidents from Ramsgate and Margate can reach all of Thanet’s (Westwood Cross) fire ground, plus the overwhelming majority of each others areas, within KMFRA’s agreed attendance time standard of 10 minutes.
This illustrates that the station at Westwood Cross is not needed as a base from which to provide emergency cover for the immediate locality.
By providing enhanced, 24-hour resources from Margate and Ramsgate fire stations, KFRS will not only be better placed to meet the risks in these specific areas, but will also provide a level of emergency response for all of Thanet which is comparable with that provided across the county.    
Westgate fire station will continue to be used for KFRS activities, with part-time staff responding to emergencies on an on-call basis.
Community safety initiatives in the area have seen some great successes, with the public becoming much better at heeding safety warnings and taking responsibility for protecting their families, homes and businesses.  As a result, KFRS has seen a 22.9% fall in the number of all fires over 5 year period
To build on this success, KFRS has also proposed to enhance existing community safety resources in the area. They will have an integral role in the community, spreading fire and road safety advice and reaching those who are most vulnerable to these risks.
These proposals are part of KMFRA’s Integrated Risk Management Plan which is published today (1 November) and sets out how the service wants to change and improve what it delivers to the public.
Until 17 January 2011, KFRS will continue to consult with staff, businesses, community groups, stakeholders and the public.
The outcomes will then be considered by KMFRA at its meeting on 16 February 2011. It is at this point that the proposals will be either approved or rejected by Elected Members. No changes will occur until this decision is made.
If agreed, the proposals will be implemented from 1 April 2011. However, it is unlikely that any changes will be seen in the immediate future as these plans will take time to implement.

For more information, please visit our website or come along and see our display at Westwood Cross shopping centre on 7 January between 10am and 4pm.