Tory chief hits out at critics over fire cover

The aftermath of the fire at Impress Dry Cleaners in Albert Road, Southsea
The aftermath of the fire at Impress Dry Cleaners in Albert Road, Southsea

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THE deputy leader of Portsmouth City Council has defended a fire vehicle from Southampton being used to tackle a blaze in Southsea.

Firefighters were called to a blaze at a launderette in Albert Road, Southsea, on December 21 which took more than three hours to put out.

The incident prompted a fresh row over fire service cuts as an aerial ladder truck from Southampton was called to help, rather than a similar vehicle from two miles down the road.

The fire service said that it had not initially sent out the Southsea ladder as it was a three-storey building and so all available crews were sent on conventional fire engines.

Only later was the ladder called in for back-up, and as the Southsea crews were all at the scene, the Southampton vehicle was summoned.

But both the Fire Fighters Union and Lib Dem leader, Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, questioned the decision.

Tory councillor Luke Stubbs said the Southampton vehicle was used ‘solely because the launderette was only three storeys tall.’

Cllr Stubbs said: ‘Had there been a fire in a tall building then of course the aerial ladder platform would have been deployed.

‘Cllr Vernon-Jackson knows this, but he doesn’t care.

‘He wants to scare people because he calculates that 
will bring him and his party votes. Neither of the other two aerial ladder platforms in Hampshire have their own crew; with only 16 call-outs in a 12-month period, it is impossible to justify having eight extra firemen to man it.’