Essex firefighter cuts will go ahead despite rise in incidents

Essex fire crews

Essex fire crews

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Firefighter cuts will still go ahead despite a rise in the number of incidents dealt with by Essex fire brigade.

Plans to reduce the number of full-time firefighters by 138 and the number of engines from 74 to 76, approved by the Essex Fire Authority last month, had been put forward on the basis crews were attending a decreasing number of incidents – and fires in particular.

But a report to the authority’s audit, governance and review committee reveals Essex County Fire & Rescue Service (ECFRS) attended 1,273 incidents in May, compared to 1,059 in May 2015.

The rolling total shows ECFRS dealt with 4,458 fires from April 2015 to May 2016, compared to 3,876 the previous year – an increase of 15%.

Of these secondary fires, outdoor and derelict building fires, accounted for largest increase with an additional 400 incidents followed by primary fires increased by 232 – of which 116 were vehicle fires and 64 were homes.

An ECFRS spokeswoman said: “Despite the service attending more incidents last year than the year before, the total number of incidents has still reduced by 42% from 10 years ago.

“It is also important to note that although we attended more incidents than the year before, we still met our performance standards of attending 90% of all incidents within 15 minutes.

“During the planning for the Options for Change consultation, we worked with external consultants to create highly accurate models showing the effects any changes will have on the response to incidents.

“During this planning and analysis, we factored in the possibility incidents could increase. Our modelling suggests that even if our incidents increase by 55%, we would still reach the required performance standards.”

Under the ECFRS modernisation programme, the number of on-call firefighters is increasing by 19.

Although the programme is aimed at bringing the service up-to-date, it will also save Essex Fire Authority an estimated £6.4million.

Acting Chief Fire Officer Adam Eckley is drawing up an implementation plan to present to the Essex Fire Authority at its September meeting.

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