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Fire chief rings alarm bells over 999 dashes
IT could take life-saving fire crews an extra seven minutes to reach emergency blazes in Worcester under a “worst case scenario”.
Chief fire officer Mark Yates said there are likely to be “one or two” incidents a year where an engine takes up to 17 minutes to reach a fire, if proposed cuts of £4.7 million are made.
He also admitted he didn’t know if the cuts will lead to more deaths – but went on to insist it was a “subjective area” and that his own belief is that it wouldn’t increase fatalities. Mr Yates appeared before Worcester City Council’s scrutiny committee to be questioned by politicians for the second time this month. As your Worcester News reported last week, Mr Yates told politicians at County Hall that fire crews would be ‘late’ for 14 extra blazes per year once a fire engine is removed in the city.
That means for nine building blazes and five road crashes, the first fire engine will take more than 10 minutes to get to the incident – over the service’s in-house targets.
During Wednesday’s debate Councillor David Tibbutt asked him if “after 10 minutes” meant a few seconds, or much longer.
The committee was told the extra time delays would be “one second to seven minutes” depending on how busy the crews were that day and the location of the call. Mr Yates said: “The worst case scenario would be a fire engine having to be called in (from Malvern or Droitwich) and having to go to the Sixways area, for example, and in that case it could be up to seven minutes.
“But that would only be for one or two calls a year. The key thing for Worcester is the Malvern and Droitwich stations, because they are your key links and road access is good. On normal occasions the whole-time fire engine will be there (at Worcester), but we know dual calls do come in.”
He also told the committee that removing one appliance from Worcester, which has three, would save £750,000 towards the £4.7 million that needs to be saved over the next three years.
The third fire engine in Worcester is used around 250 times a year.
Coun Jabba Riaz asked him if “not having a third engine” will result in more deaths. “On fatalities, I couldn’t tell you,” said Mr Yates.
“But this proposal will still leave Worcester with the best fire coverage in Worcestershire and Herefordshire. I don’t think there will be more (deaths) because of this. “It’s a very subjective area but research shows most people who are dead die before a fire engine gets there.”
He also reiterated that Worcester fire station gets 1,400 calls a year, adding: “I am satisfied we have the resources to cope with whatever life throws at us.” The cuts, which are out for consultation until January, include going from 43 fire engines to 33 in the two counties, and 144 job losses across the service.