Fire Stations To Close
Plans to close eight rural fire stations in Kent have been given the go ahead by the Kent Fire Authority, which oversees the running of the county's fire service.
Officials looked at the results of a public consultation based on the findings of a three year review of KFRS.
The review was prompted by a 25% drop in incidents, the need to ensure that stations are in the right locations and whether the Service has the right number of fire engines available to deal with a major emergency.
Bryan Cope, Chairman of the Kent and Medway Fire and Rescue Authority, said: "The safety of the public and our firefighters is always our top priority.
"However all of the evidence shows that we have eight more fire engines than we need, even to deal with a major emergency. Several stations, some established in Victorian times, are now in the wrong location, while in other areas we need more emergency cover."
So, while eight stations will be closed, five new ones are being built. Extra staff are also being recruited and a new fleet of engines and equipment being introduced.
Seven of the stations, including Matfield, Halling, Sturry, Seal, St Margaret's, Queenborough and Rusthall will shut down by April, while the eighth in Horton Kirby will remain open until a new one is operation at nearby New Ash Green. New stations are also being built in Herne Bay, Ramsgate and two in the Medway Towns.
But the decision has been met with anger by the Fire Brigades Union who claim the changes will lead to increased response times, in some cases as much as 4½ minutes and put lives at risk.
FBU Kent Brigade Secretary, Mark Simmons said: "To wait an extra 4½ minutes for the arrival of a fire engine is very concerning as fires spread very quickly.
The quicker we can get to an incident the better chance we have of achieving a successful outcome. We'd urge them to think again about the savage cuts that are being proposed and the effects they will have".
But Kent Fire and Rescue Service maintains the public will actually be better protected through the changes.
Chief Executive Ann Millington 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."