Additional fire engines to respond in rural areas
Two additional fire engines will now be available in daytime hours in rural areas of the county.
Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service has reallocated resources to provide the extra cover in areas where on-call fire engines are not available. The aim is to reduce attendance times to fires and other emergencies and to provide a resource to carry out fire prevention activity.
The roaming pumps will not work out of a fixed fire station, but will be sent to areas – one in the north and one in the south of the county – on a daily basis depending on need. When not attending incidents, the crews will be carrying out community safety work including safety visits to elderly and vulnerable residents, as well as visiting local businesses to ensure they comply with fire safety legislation.
Chief Fire Officer Chris Strickland explained: “Analysis of our data has found that we have a greater demand on our services in daytime hours when we have the least fire engines available. We are a largely rural county and therefore only seven of our 27 operational fire stations have a full time crew in the day. Our other fire stations rely on local residents or people who work close-by to provide on-call cover. They have to drop everything and get to the fire station if there is a 999 call in their area. We have found that our availability of fire engines at these stations has decreased over the last five years despite ongoing recruitment drives and the effort existing on-call firefighters make to keep the fire engine available.”
Cambridgeshire is not the only fire and rescue service to experience this. Recruitment and retention of on-call firefighters is an issue nationally as societal changes mean that people no longer live and work in the same town or village and so it is difficult for people to provide enough cover to have the fire engines available all the time.
Chris continued: “We therefore reviewed our wholetime firefighter resources and decided to reallocate firefighter posts that were dedicated to specialist vehicles at Cambridge and Peterborough, as well as the tactical delivery group which already worked to provide additional resilience to on-call stations but in a different way.
“By working with the Fire Brigades Union and staff we agreed to introduce the two roaming pumps to improve attendance times and community safety activity in rural areas which we anticipate will add greater value in preventing fires and getting help to people quicker.”
The specialist vehicles will still be called upon when needed and will be operated by the wholetime crews at Cambridge and Peterborough.
Chairman of the Fire Authority Kevin Reynolds added: “We are always looking at ways to improve our service and this gets all the more challenging with a reduced budget year on year. This new initiative shows that by understanding the risk in our communities, analysing our performance and working with the unions and our staff, we can find ways to use the resources we have more effectively to keep our communities safe.”
“We will continue to review our performance to ensure that the additional fire engines are having the impact we anticipate from a point of view of both the time it takes us to get to an incident and an increase in community safety activity in rural areas.”