Cambridgeshire firefighters set to oppose closure plans

Two fire stations in Cambridgeshire are to close and crews rehoused in a central building.

Fire chiefs have decided the stations at Burwell and Swaffham Bulbeck, three miles apart, are not fit for purpose.

Recommendations being put to the fire authority on 11 February also include a phased withdrawal of a rescue vehicle at Huntingdon.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) said it had just agreed to new working patterns and would fight the latest changes.

Under the proposals, Burwell fire station would move to a plot of land next to the existing station.

The fire service has so far achieved £4.2m in budget savings by reorganising support services and the operational command structure, which resulted in the cutting of 65 jobs.

Safety 'compromised'

The FBU has called its latest plans "disgraceful" and pledged to mount a "vigorous campaign of opposition".

A rescue vehicle at Huntingdon is to be downgraded from 24-hour availability to day cover only, it said.

"This means that the appliance, which specialises in rescuing members of the public involved in road traffic collisions, could only be available during office hours, Monday to Friday."

Fire chiefs said the vehicle had been used only 96 times in the past year and a new operational risk and response team would be more efficient.

A Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service spokeswoman said crewing arrangements for the vehicle would be changed but it would still be available for use 24 hours a day by whole-time firefighters based at Huntingdon.

Cameron Matthews, of the FBU, said: "These cuts will seriously affect emergency cover in Cambridgeshire and we believe will compromise both public and firefighter safety.

Recruitment difficulties

"Swaffham Bulbeck fire station provides cover in a rural, isolated area. By shutting the station, response times in the area will increase.

"The rescue vehicle at Huntingdon fire station is an essential resource which provides specialist back up and support at road traffic collisions, flooding and other types of emergencies."

Chris Strickland, deputy chief fire officer, said: "Service improvement will focus on shifting resources from under-utilised areas to where they could make a difference.

"The permanent operational risk and response team will provide support for large scale incidents and for 999 calls."

A study by the fire service also revealed difficulties in recruiting retained firefighters.

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