A firefighter has warned ‘drastic’ changes to Emsworth fire station could put lives at risk in West Sussex.
Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service has put forward proposals to save £12.2m over the next four years – losing more than 200 firefighter posts.
Emsworth could lose four firefighters from its crew of 16, saving some £28,000. Proposals also include removing its fire engine and replacing it with a smaller vehicle crewed by a minimum of two firefighters.
The proposals have now gone out to a three-month public consultation.
A member of HFRS, who asked not to be named, said there would ‘undoubtedly be an increased risk to the public and to firefighters’.
He said changes to Emsworth station created concern because it dealt with incidents across Westbourne, Chidham, Southbourne, Nutbourne, Funtington and Bosham.
“This is about a risk to the firefighters I serve with,” he said.
“This is a Hampshire fire station so West Sussex hasn’t been taken into consideration. Because Emsworth is on the border, most of its calls are to West Sussex.
“Since the closure of Bosham fire station there has been a massive void between Emsworth and Chichester and West Sussex struggles to commit resources.
“I am concerned because there is a wide range of incidents two firefighters on their own would struggle to deal with.
“Firefighters will be under a moral pressure to act at certain incidents prior to the arrival of other appliances.
“It’s unclear what the equipment will be on the first-response capability vehicle.
“It is imperative residents in Hampshire and West Sussex are able to have their say on the proposals and the fire service they pay for.
“Incidents in West Sussex over the last three years where Hampshire crews have been requested have dramatically increased.
“I think it is down to the West Sussex Fire Service to make a move.”
West Sussex county councillor Sandra James, who represents the Bourne ward, said: “This provision is currently serving the Bourne division and is most often the first point of call for a fire call-out.
“There will now be a consultation process but this regretfully is not being made so freely available to West Sussex residents even though it affects us here.
“There are repercussions of the government spending review affecting Havant fire station which is doubly worrying for us in Bourne.”
Emsworth councillor Brendan Gibb-Gray added: “The retained firefighters at Emsworth have provided excellent cover for fire, rescue and other emergency services over many years.
“I support fully the retention of Emsworth fire station and during the consultation will work to ensure that whatever changes are suggested, residents and indeed businesses retain the current high level response times.
“We also need to ensure proper consultation with West Sussex Fire and Rescue as the military base at Thorney Island is a strategically important location that must be adequately protected.”
HFRS chief officer Dave Curry said the proposals aimed to ‘deliver an effective service in accordance with the needs of communities, ensuring we match our resources to levels of known risk’.
MP urges residents to have their say on proposals
Emsworth’s MP Alan Mak is encouraging residents to have their say on the proposals.
“We need an effective and efficient fire service that meets local needs in Emsworth and West Sussex while responding to changes in risk levels and the need for sound financial management,” said the MP.
“I encourage residents to respond to Hampshire Fire Authority’s consultation.
“I’m meeting Emsworth’s firefighters and Hampshire’s chief fire officer shortly to discuss their views too.”
To view the proposals and online survey, visit Hampshire Fire and Rescue or request a hard copy by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Public consultation documents will also be available from Emsworth post office, Emsworth Dental Surgery, Village Dental, The Village Dental, enVisage, Emsworth Surgery and Southbourne Surgery.