Proposal to cut fire engine ‘could cost lives’

Yates's fire in Talbot Square, Blackpool
Yates's fire in Talbot Square, Blackpool
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‘Save our fire engine or more lives will be lost...’

That is the stark warning from those whose own lives have been tragically blighted by fire.

Chris Molloy (below), the Fire Brigades Union Blackpool representative.

Chris Molloy (below), the Fire Brigades Union Blackpool representative.

Victims of some of the Fylde’s most tragic incidents are pleading with the public to help save one of Blackpool’s fire engines from the axe – a move they believe could put more lives at risk.

Today marks just over two weeks since a three-month consultation into proposed cuts at Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service (LFRS) began, which would potentially see Blackpool fire station lose one of its two engines as well as the risk of jobs being lost at South Shore fire station.

The proposals have been outlined in LFRS’s emergency cover review, produced after a 25 per cent cut in funding to Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service (LFRS) by central Government, meaning £10m of savings need to be made by April 2016.

Removing one fire engine and a whole-time crew at Blackpool would save £1m, the fire service says.

But it comes as figures show each engine at Blackpool deals with an average of 520 incidents a year, 73 of them serious fires.

And today those affected by fire tragedies in the resort have joined with anti-cuts campaigners and union chiefs to encourage members of the public to make their views known and stop the fire engine being scrapped.

One woman, Shirley Fish, from Poulton, lost her 96-year-old mother after her bed was set alight as she slept at Cleveleys Park care home almost three years ago.

She said: “You can say you’ll bring fire engines in from further afield if they’re required but time is of the essence and it’s terribly important.

“Sometimes people just take it for granted that these systems are there to protect them, but what happens if they aren’t?”

Chris Molloy (below), the Fire Brigades Union’s Blackpool representative, is encouraging concerned members of the public to get involved in the consultation.

He said: “It’s going to have a detrimental effect on responses and to my mind that’s going to put lives at risk, purely down to Government cuts.”

He added: “We’re going to end up with a situation by 2017 where, on the whole of the Fylde coast, only one station will be full-time.

“If you’re also dropping that station to having one fire engine it’s a recipe for disaster.”

The plan comes four years after Lancashire Fire and Rescue last proposed to axe one of Blackpool’s fire engines and replace it with a smaller Rapid Intervention Unit – a Transit-style van.

But that idea was dropped following similar public outcry, with then assistant chief fire officer Peter O’Brien telling The Gazette at the time: “We listened to what people, the public and firefighters had to say. We’ve considered this matter carefully and don’t believe it is appropriate.

“We want the public to be confident in the service we provide and we are aware of the challenges we face in Blackpool.”

But today a spokesman for Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service said the number of fires in Blackpool since 2009 had reduced.

He said: “The situation has changed, not least because of the significant reduction in fires and the need to match resource levels to the level of demand.”

People can make their views heard by emailing rmp@lancsfireresuce.org.uk, or visiting the service’s Twitter or Facebook pages.

Alternatively you can post your views to Risk Management Team, Lancashire Fire & Rescue Service Headquarters, Preston, PR2 3LH.

An online consultation is also available at www.lancsfireconsultation.com.

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