Despite the fire service only getting to a third of life threatening calls in Crowborough within the target time of 8 minutes, further cuts are being proposed which could see Crowborough Fire Station downgraded.
East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service (ESFRS) have a range of performance measurements. One of the most critical sets of targets relate to the time taken for firefighters to arrive at an emergency. ESFRS aim to get the first appliance to a fire or road traffic collision within 8 minutes in 60% of life threatening incidents.
During the period July to September (Q2 2014/15), the first appliance arrived at only 32% of incidents within 8 minutes. In three emergencies (or 14%), it took over 13 minutes for the first appliance to arrive.
Deputy Chief Fire Officer Gary Walsh said:
East Sussex Fire Authority has a range of measures in place which are used to help monitor performance and ensure that we identify any potential areas for improvement. This includes monitoring attendance times across the Service’s area.
Attendance times can be affected by a number of factors – for example roadworks, the time of day (e.g. rush hour) and the location of the emergency in relation to the location of our fire engines and the duty system on a specific fire station and its surrounding stations.
We acknowledge that the response times differ on Crowborough Station Ground in 2013/14, which is partly due to the existing duty system at Crowborough and Uckfield. This is – in part – one of the reasons we are looking again at the provision of response Services in the area.
We would like to reassure the public that the risk of life threatening incidents (which include property fires and road traffic collisions) on Crowborough Station Ground and surrounding area is very low and has indeed fallen from 74 to 54 between 2012/13 and 2013/14.
Last month, CrowboroughLife told you the Deputy Chief Fire Officer, Gary Walsh, spoke to Crowborough Town Council about proposals to make Crowborough Fire Station unmanned. The cuts would mean rather than a crew being at the station during the day (‘Day Crewed’) as at present, retained firefighters would respond to an emergency call from home or work. This would put Crowborough on the same level as the villages of Forest Row, Wadhurst and Mayfield, which currently only have retained crews. Having firefighters turn-out from home or work can only delay the arrival of fire appliances still further.
About the future plans Gary Walsh told CrowboroughLife:
The Fire Authority has had to consider its long-term plans for response services as a result of the reductions in its grant from Government. They have considered a wide range of information in order to make decisions which would have the least impact on the community across the Service.
One of the proposals that the Fire Authority has agreed is for the Service to investigate the impact of providing two new day crewed duty system fire stations, one in the Uckfield area and one in Lewes. Crews would remain on station 24 hours a day, thereby providing an improved response never achieved in the past.
This review will look to see where attendance times may be improved across the more rural areas of the county, as a result of these proposals.
Any analysis of the impact on Crowborough and the surrounding community would take into account the travel time from any of the existing surrounding stations responding to Crowborough during the day.
Our current analysis indicates that from the current location of Uckfield Fire Station that a travelling time of around 8/10 minutes to parts of Crowborough could be achieved.
The work on this proposal has yet to commence and therefore no final recommendations have been put to the Fire Authority.
This is not the first cost saving measure to affect Crowborough. In the New Year, two full-time firefighter posts will be cut from Crowborough and Uckfield and three other stations in East Sussex (read the background here).
Overall ESFRS is meeting the targets set for attendance times for East Sussex and Brighton & Hove as a whole (72%). However on the south coast, fire stations are crewed on 24-hour shifts (‘Wholetime’), therefore it is likely that attendance times in places like Hastings, Eastbourne and Brighton & Hove compensates for poor performance in the north of the county. Figures for each fire station will need to be published by ESFRS or the Fire Authority for this to be proved.
The figures relate to ‘Crowborough Station Ground’, the area covered by Crowborough Fire Station, not necessarily incidents attended by an appliance based at Crowborough.