Ashfield residents renew concerns over 'patchwork' fire station staffing after two fatal fires in seven weeks

With the sad news of a second fatal fire in Kirkby on March 19, residents have renewed their concerns over the controversial decision to remove wholetime fire cover from Ashfield Fire Station in 2019.

Friday, 25th March 2022, 7:25 pm

Residents had campaigned against the decision to remove full-time cover between the hours of 6pm and 8am, which would mean retained firefighters would attend call-outs, potentially adding four minutes to emergency response times.

With the news of a second fatal fire in just seven weeks during those hours, residents are concerned that the decision taken to remove cover could cause further deaths in future.

Ashfield Fire Station was manned by wholetime fire crews from elsewhere during both incidents, meaning they attended within the recommended eight minutes and 30 seconds, however this meant that two other stations were left without cover – and union chiefs have said that these fatalities should serve as a ‘wake-up call’ to decision-makers and highlighted a need for increased wholetime cover.

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Ashfield was fortunately manned by crews from other stations, meaning they could attend within 8 minutes 30 seconds.

Mark Stilwell, Fire Brigades Union brigade secretary, said: “First and foremost our thoughts are with the friends and family of the people who tragically lost their lives.

“In recent years the service has been cut to the bone locally, with a cut of over 13 per cent when compared to 2016.

"This has left a patchwork service that is unable to properly serve the community.

"These incidents have highlighted some of the real gaps that these cutbacks are causing and they should serve as wake-up calls to our decision-makers: the longer this goes on the more our communities are likely to suffer.”

Richard Cooper, station manager for the Ashfield District said: “Our thoughts are with the family and friends of this man, and the local community, at this very sad time.

“Responding to emergencies as quickly as possible will always be our priority.

“We and neighbouring fire services use a system which ensures that we constantly provide the best possible cover that we can.

“This can mean that our firefighters and fire engines move to different places to ensure we can respond quickly to any emergency.

“The nearest fire engine and crew will always attend and the first to arrive at this incident came from Ashfield.

“We had a crew from Hucknall positioned there at the time who were at the scene in six minutes.”

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