Critics say Portsmouth could be left without adequate fire cover

James Taylor at his desk in his office at 116 High Street, Old Portsmouth.

Those halcyon days when pen and paper just worked!

  • Huge shake-up has led to fears there will be inadequate cover
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FEARS a ‘perfect storm’ of major incidents could leave Portsmouth barely protected by firefighters were raised at a public meeting over cuts.

Residents and ward councillors told Hampshire deputy fire service chief officer Neil Odin they were concerned that having fewer crew at the Southsea station could be dangerous.

Last night's meeting about proposed changes to Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service, held at the John Pounds Centre in Portsea Picture: Jason Kay

Last night's meeting about proposed changes to Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service, held at the John Pounds Centre in Portsea Picture: Jason Kay

Fire Brigades’ Union Hampshire secretary Gary Jackson said a fire last week at a cottage in Bartons Road, Havant, needed Southsea’s aerial ladder platform (ALP).

Another engine was then sent to cover Havant while the blaze was tackled.

Mr Jackson said another crew from Southsea was then called to an automatic fire alarm in Homesea House, Green Road, Southsea.

‘That left just four personnel covering the whole of Portsea island,’ he told the meeting at the John Pounds Centre in Portsea.

That would have left the whole of Portsea covered by the two firefighters

Gary Jackson

‘Under the new proposal two of those personnel on the appliance would have been on the ALP. That would have left the whole of Portsea island covered by the two firefighters.’

Currently the ALP is staffed by two firefighters at all times – the new proposals remove that dedicated cover, potentially leaving it without anyone to operate it if all the firefighters are out.

Mr Odin, who is responsible for the risk review currently out for public consultation, said control staff would send resources to Portsmouth in such circumstances.

But Cllr Rob Wood, ward member for St Thomas, said he had concerns about the reliance of a smaller van-type fire vehicle in the plan.

Veronica Appleton, 65, of Curzhome Road, Portsea

Veronica Appleton, 65, of Curzhome Road, Portsea

He said: ‘If that perfect storm happened we wouldn’t have the same cover.’

He added Portsmouth was a ‘special case’ and needed cover for the dockyard and in case of a terrorist attack.

Last night it was also revealed the number of critical incidents and non-critical incidents listed for each station in the consultation did not include when stations are called out on standby or to incidents out of their area.

In Emsworth that means its number of critical incidents rocketed from six listed in the consultation to 35 it actually went to, FBU member Lee Merritt said.

And resident Veronica Appleton, 65, of Curzon Howe Road, Portsea, said she feared the proposed smaller vehicles manned by two people were not safe. Her father was rescued by firefighters in a flat blaze in the 1990s.

‘If it was just two firefighters they would never have managed it,’ she said.

But Mr Odin said any move would be safe, adding: ‘We will not sacrifice my firefighters’ safety and the community’s safety.’

Southsea is set to lose four of 20 firefighters on a shift and have an enhanced vehicle, small fire vehicle and intermediate vehicle.

Cosham is to keep 15 firefighters on shift but go from having two fire engines to one and an intermediate vehicle.