Will part time firefighters be able to deal with a house fire like the one we experienced?

A fire spread to the loft of this Sutton house from the house next door.
A fire spread to the loft of this Sutton house from the house next door.

A fire which spread to a Sutton house in the early hours of the morning could have been much worse if full time firefighters had not been on duty, claims a Sutton pensioner.

David George 66 has hit out at plans to changes which could see Ashfield fire station in Kirkby lose ‘full-time’ evening firefighters.

Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Services say control room procedures would ensure the most appropriate and quickest appliance would be mobilised.

Mr George of Searby Road told how he and his wife Ann were evacuated from their house after a fire in a neighbour’s property spread to their loft in the early hours of the morning.

Mr George said: “I was dismayed at the reduction in the staff at Ashfield fire station as the Fire officer said that in this day and age houses were better built and safer.

“I live in a 1950s three bed semi-detached and I would have thought the same - but in the 50’s building standards were lower as I was to find out.”

He told of their lucky escape from the blaze eight years ago.

He said: “I was awakened by my wife who heard sounds from next door and looked out of the window could see the flames coming out of next door window.

“I quickly put on some clothes as she rang the fire brigade and I went round to see if the neighbour was OK and I found her on the stairs just below a layer of black smoke and got her outside.

“The bedroom door was shut and that slowed the spread of the fire and the fire brigade came pretty soon as it is not far from our house to the fire station.

“We were then told to keep out of our house as the fire can cross to our house and if the fire brigade didn’t put it out it would have.”

Wooden joists in the floor continued from one house to the other and there were gaps in the brickwork under the floor and in the loft.

Mr George added: “Flames, heat and smoke can pass and it had without us knowing.

“They had to get into our loft to put small fires and smoke out.

“When they are not manned they need to rely on retained fire fighters and they are going to have to make the journey to the fire station which puts five to ten minutes minimum on their response to the fire .

“That would have given the fire the extra time it needed to take hold in our house.”

Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Authority is set to approve plans for alternative crewing at the station, which would mean night shifts are no longer covered by full-time firefighters.

The fire service has said this will make “necessary financial savings” after cost-cutting since 2010 saved the authority £13 million per year.

A formal decision will be made by the authority at a meeting on Friday, February 16.

The station is currently open 24 hours a day and has 26 firefighters.

One of the changes will be that firefighters are not based at the station overnight, but retained firefighters will have to travel in when alerted to an incident.

Fire chiefs have said there would be no reduction in cover at the station, although residents and councillors have raised fears response times would be increased by up to five minutes.

In a report to the authority, made up of councillors from Nottingham City Council and Nottinghamshire County Council, members are recommended to ”approve the implementation of the mixed crewing model at both Ashfield and Retford fire stations” in a bid to save £1 million.

The Chad asked Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Services would the fire services be able to have dealt with this call under the same circumstances if the forthcoming changes to manning are brought into effect?

A spokesman for Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Services said: “We are obviously pleased that Mr George and his wife were able to safely evacuate their home following the fire eight years ago.

“There may be a common perception, evidenced by your question, that appliances will only respond in their local area.

“This is not the case as Control Room procedures ensure that the most appropriate and quickest appliance is mobilised, even if that means it is provided from another area.

“For context, at least two appliances are mobilised to property fires, and at least three are sent if there is a life risk.

“More than half the Service appliances are already crewed by retained staff and there is no evidence to suggest that response times or capability of crews is an issue in those areas.

“In addition, mixed Crewing is not a new crewing system, it has been used by Fire and Rescue Services across the UK for many years.

The statement adds; “The recommendations are intended to address a number of issues for the Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service, namely the 40 per cent reduction in demand on operational resources over the last ten years; the difficulty in recruiting retained firefighters to provide day-time cover; the changing demand between day and night-time activity; the need to support firefighters working to age 60; and a reduction in funding to the year 2020.”