‘LIVES AT RISK’ – from fire service cuts

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‘What angers me is they call this a risk reduction plan, when it is obvious it will cause more risk,’ Fire Brigades Union (FBU) Mid and West Wales membership secretary Lawrence Larmond told News Line yesterday.

He said the FBU is ‘deeply disappointed at the downgrading of a fire station’ after plans to end 24-hour full-time staffing on-site at Pontardawe fire station, Swansea Valley, were approved by the local fire authority on Monday night.

Under the plan, the number of full-time fire fighters stationed there are to be cut by half, and night cover provided by part-time ‘retained’ firefighters.

The FBU’s Larmond added: ‘It is universally recognised that occupants are more at risk at night because they are asleep.

‘The proposals brought forward by the fire authority will increase the response time out of Pontardawe fire station.

‘At the moment it is crewed by full-time firefighters.

‘They are now proposing the crews will be at home at night.

‘They will have to go from home to the fire station to go to the fire.

‘This will obviously take longer and potentially put lives at risk.

‘There is an average four minute delay. That is a long time both for attending a road traffic accident and a fire, and can be a matter of life and death.

‘We are opposed to the scheme and have an ongoing campaign supported by the borough council who also oppose the plan.

‘Our next move will be to lobby the Welsh Assembly.

‘I have to put this to the membership and we may be considering industrial action.’

The FBU has collected 2,500 signatures on a petition against the downgrading.

Fire chiefs are saying the plan will save £450,000 a year in shift payments.

The fire authority admitted it would add around three minutes extra to the response time at night but added that 50 out of its 57 stations operated along similar lines.

l Scotland fire chiefs have said plans to cut back on council refuse collections could increase the number of bin fires and the cost of dealing with them.

Rescue services attend about 20,000 calls to fires in rubbish bins and refuse skips each year, at a cost of about £40 million.

The Chief Fire Officers Association of Scotland has voiced concern over plans to move to fortnightly uplift schemes.

Chief Fire Officer Brian Sweeney said: ‘Fire setting is an opportunistic low-level crime mainly carried out by children and young people.

‘Overflowing bins and rubbish skips from commercial and household waste, together with illegal dumping of waste materials, is providing a ready source of combustible materials for young fire setters and as a result, fire vandalism is on the increase.

‘We can no longer accept the high levels of fire-setting and fire vandalism within communities and the associated waste of public money, health and environmental risks.’

The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla) said councils always thought carefully before making changes to rubbish collections.

A Cosla spokesman said that only about a third of Scotland’s 32 local authorities had fortnightly collections, which was an individual decision for each council.