Firefighters to protest on streets of Huntingdon

FIREFIGHTERS will take to the streets of Huntingdon this weekend to protest at potential cuts to frontline services.

FIREFIGHTERS will take to the streets of Huntingdon this weekend to protest at potential cuts to frontline services.

They hope to raise public awareness of proposals that threaten the county’s fire service, and to spread their message: Cuts cost lives.

On May 26, Cambridgeshire Fire Authority will be presented with the results of four feasibility studies – including the downgrading of Huntingdon fire station and removal of the second pump from St Ives – as Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service looks for savings of �2.5million.

Kevin Napier, secretary of the Cambridgeshire Fire Brigades Union, said the Save Cambs Fire campaign was aimed at informing the public how the cuts – which have yet to be approved – would impact on the front line.

He told The Hunts Post: “People don’t get exposed to the fire service until they become customers of ours.

“But there’s no getting around the fact that any reduction in the front line costs lives.

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“If that, unfortunately, does happen, then we don’t want to be saying ‘I told you so’. We believe these cuts are too harsh.”

Firefighters will distribute leaflets on Market Hill on Saturday showing how 10 feasibility studies will affect the county’s fire provision, and encourage people to show their support through the campaign website

“We’re hoping to make people aware of the dangers of the downgrading of Huntingdon fire station,” said Mr Napier.

The service has already identified �1.8million of efficiency savings for 2011/12 and 2012/13, but needs to trim another �2.5m in the two years after that. As well as frontline cuts, it is looking at making savings on the non-operational and administrative side.

If Huntingdon is downgraded, the station’s 24-hour dedicated crew would be replaced at night by retained cover (known as ‘day crewed’) or on-site cover from the day crews (‘day crewed plus’).

The FBU fears that a switch to either system would increase response times by around five minutes – something Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service refutes.

Mr Napier said: “Alternative shifts will mean delays in responding to emergency calls. Aligned to reduction at other stations, that will mean less fire cover for Huntingdonshire.”

CFRS said data modelling showed that night-time response times would be extended by 22 seconds under ‘day crewed plus’ and about a minute for ‘day crewed’.

A video on the Save Cambs Fire website shows how a domestic fire can take hold in just three minutes, which the FBU says demonstrates the devastating effect of any delays in response times.

The FBU plans to lobby the fire authority meeting, with regional and national union representatives, to signal its members’ opposition to any frontline cuts, and will be encouraging members of the public to join them.

“We encourage firefighters, their friends, their family and concerned members of the public to come along to the fire authority meeting. Those who cannot attend can show their support through the website or by writing to the chief fire officer.”

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