Firefighters in Cambridgeshire have reacted with fury at new plans to downgrade fire cover in the county. The plans, which will be put to the fire authority on 11 February, include the closure of Swaffham Bullbeck fire station and the downgrading of a vital rescue vehicle to day time cover only. The Fire Brigades Union has called the plans “disgraceful” and have pledged to mount a “vigorous campaign of opposition” if councillors agree to pursue them. The plans involve downgrading the rescue vehicle at Huntingdon fire station from its current 24 hour availability to ‘day cover’ only. This means that the appliance, which specialises in rescuing members of the public involved in road traffic collisions, could only be guaranteed available during office hours, Monday to Friday.
Cameron Matthews, Cambridgeshire FBU secretary said: “These cuts will seriously affect emergency cover in Cambridgeshire and we believe will compromise both public and firefighter safety. Swaffham Bullbeck fire station provides cover in a rural, isolated area and the public in that area rely on the station to protect them in case of emergency. By shutting the station, response times in the area will increase which will mean that those who need the fire service will have to wait longer.
“The rescue vehicle at Huntingdon fire station is an essential resource which provides specialist back up and support at road traffic collisions, floodings and other types of emergencies. It is a vital emergency vehicle, which is used in the most dangerous and difficult instances, and the plans to downgrade to ‘day cover’ only are disgraceful.”
The union will be campaigning for the removal of these plans at the fire authority meeting scheduled for 2pm on 11 February. The FBU has informed politicians of the substantial sacrifices already made by Cambridgeshire firefighters and told them that these further cuts are a “step too far”.
Kerry Baigent, Cambridgeshire FBU organiser said: “Only a few weeks ago firefighters in Cambridgeshire were put onto a revised duty system which means extra working hours, less time off and substantial disruption to our family lives. When this was introduced we were told that it would prevent any further cuts in the service but now we see that this is untrue. FBU members feel they have been stabbed in the back and misled by senior managers who have reneged on their promises less than two weeks after the new system was introduced.”
Cameron Matthews, Cambridgeshire FBU brigade chair (acting)
Kerry Baigent, Cambridgeshire FBU brigade organiser