TWO hundred firefighters and control room staff were joined by thousands of angry local residents in a 13-mile march from Camborne to Falmouth on Saturday, to ‘Save Cornwall’s Fire Service’.
The deaths of three people as the Penhallow Hotel in Newquay burnt to the ground in August has caused uproar across Cornwall, after the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) protested that cutbacks had left the county without enough full-time firefighters or equipment.
Saturday’s march was called after it emerged that there were plans to end Cornwall’s remaining 24-hour full-time fire cover by ‘downgrading’ Falmouth and Camborne stations.
Cornwall will soon have to rely entirely on a retained (part-time) fire service at night, unless the latest cuts in the county’s budget are stopped.
The jobs of 35 full-time firefighters are at stake.
Saturday’s march assembled at 10.00 in the morning outside Falmouth fire station, before heading to Penryn and Redruth and finally arriving at Camborne.
The fire authority said it was ‘with regret that the council needs to look with the fire service management at alternative ways of providing the service, instead of investing more money in its emergency service.’
But FBU Regional Secretary John Drake said: ‘There comes a point when enough is enough and I think we’re at that point.
‘What we need to see is a rebuilding of the fire service in Cornwall.
‘I don’t think the county council has a choice. They must invest to bring the service up to the level the public deserve.’
The county council said that ‘no decision will be made on the potential downgrading of Falmouth and Camborne fire stations until the investigation of the fire at Newquay has been completed.’
Demonstrators on Saturday demanded the restoration of 24-hour fire cover to all towns in Cornwall with a population of more than 8,000 people.
The mayor of Falmouth, county councillor Roger Bonney, said he did not agree with full 24-hour cover for all towns, saying it would double the current fire service budget.
But Bonney added that there should be ‘full-time cover for towns like St Austell or Newquay where the populations are so much higher. I would hate to think of another Penhallow on our hands.’
• A heated council meeting in Devon last week passed a motion by 14 votes to 11, noting comments made by the Fire Brigades Union that cuts made in Cornwall had compromised efforts to fight the Penhallow Hotel blaze.
Local people have demanded that councillors sitting on the fire authority vote against the cuts when a final decision is taken on October 12.
One councillor said: ‘We saw in Newquay how the aerial platform was significantly delayed. We have significantly more hotels in Torquay and it is essential that we keep the aerial platform on tap.’