999 crews say thank you as cuts are headed off

Firefighters Chris Molloy and Glenn Thwaites with The Gazette headlines which highlighted their fight.
Firefighters Chris Molloy and Glenn Thwaites with The Gazette headlines which highlighted their fight.
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Firefighters were celebrating today after a Blackpool fire engine – set to be axed under Government cuts – was saved.

Blackpool fire station, based at Forest Gate, had been due to lose one of its two engines as part of savage £13m cuts to the service across Lancashire.

Jobs were also set to go at South Shore fire station as part of the drastic plans.

Fire crews today thanked both The Gazette for highlighting the issue and local people for their support.

The proposed cuts sparked anger among firefighters and union bosses, who told The Gazette the loss of the second engine could put lives at risk.

And after a public consultation saw the people of the Fylde coast make their voices heard, Lancashire Combined Fire Authority’s planning committee has now recommended the Blackpool engine and jobs should be saved.

Today firefighters and those who have been affected by major blazes in Blackpool told of their relief at the decision.

Chris Molloy, Blackpool’s Fire Brigades Union’s representative, described the announcement as “a victory for the public”.

“Had we got rid of it then we would have been in fear of lives being lost,” he said.

“I would like to say a massive thank you to The Gazette for facilitating an open debate on this issue.

“Me and my fellow firefighters at Blackpool were always confident if all sides were looked at in this argument then the folly of removing a frontline fire engine from Lancashire’s highest risk area would be obvious.”

Figures show each engine at Blackpool deals with an average of 520 incidents a year – 73 of them serious fires.

Mr Molloy said: “The residents of Blackpool, MPs, and councillors have considered these proposals and raised their concerns.

“It is pleasing to see that Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service has listened and it shows these consultations are taken seriously.

“It must also be reassuring for all those that voiced their concerns that they’ve been listened to and, more importantly, made the difference.

“Without them Blackpool would have definitely lost this vital resource.”

The recommendations which have been made following the three month long consultation will see the engine’s status reviewed again in 2016.

A statement by Lancashire Combined Fire Authority said: “The Authority’s Planning Committee considered the outcomes of the Emergency Cover Review consultation.

“It fully discussed the issues arising and, as a result of its considerations, has amended some of the original proposals

“The proposals to change South Shore to Day Crewing Plus and remove a wholetime fire engine at Blackpool will be considered as part of the next Emergency Cover Review scheduled to take place in 2016 along with other proposals.”

The Combined Fire Authority is expected to ratify the recommendations on December 9.

Despite there being good news for Blackpool, two engines at stations in East Lancashire will be scrapped as a result of the review.

Mr Molloy added: “I was very pleased for Blackpool but it doesn’t take away from the issue that we’re going to lose £13m. The bigger argument and bigger worry is they’re still wanting all these cuts.”

Len Curtis runs the Donna’s Dream House children’s charity, which was hit by arsonists in December 2011.

He said: “I’m absolutely delighted because it is an essential service for Blackpool.

“This is a service that’s desperately needed. It’s also brilliant for South Shore fire station. It’s the hub of its community and very important.”

Craig Southall, chairman of Blackpool Pubwatch, was general manager of Yates’s Wine Lodge when it burned down in February 2009.

He said: “It’s absolutely fantastic the engine has been saved and good to see people listening to reason and working things out in a logical manner. The emergency services are not something we should be messing around with.”

Blackpool Coun Fred Jackson, who is vice chairman of the Combined Fire Authority’s planning committee, said: “There was a lot of opposition in the town and a lot of concern from the firefighters.

“When you consider the number of people that come into Blackpool over the year you’re not comparing like for like with other towns in Lancashire. And so the circumstances in Blackpool had to be looked at differently.”

Blackpool South MP Gordon Marsden, who also campaigned on the issue, said: “It’s a very sensible and good decision. It reflects the widespread representations that have been made on all sides.

Paul Maynard, MP for Blackpool North and Cleveleys, said: “I am pleasantly surprised the concerted lobbying has paid off as with anyone I met at the fire brigade there seemed to be very little room for manoeuvre.

“I’m glad they have recognised the needs of Blackpool.”

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