England

Devon and Somerset fire stations to close under changes

Fire engine
Image caption The Devon and Somerset fire service currently has more has 120 fire engines

Up to eight fire stations may close under changes being considered by Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service.

Currently, there are 85 fire stations, 121 fire engines and 2,000 members of staff across both counties.

The service said it wanted to bring an outdated service into the 21st Century and fire incidents in both areas had decreased 36% between 2008 and 2018.

Unions said closing any stations would be a mistake and expressed concerns about a lack of fire cover.

The service said it had saved £12.2m over the last five years but an estimated £8.4m of savings were still needed in the next three.

It also said some stations attended only a handful of fires a year and resources would be better concentrated elsewhere.

Image caption The Royal Clarence Hotel fire in Exeter in 2016 saw 54 of the service's engines involved

It has outlined six options, ranging from the outright closure of stations, through to appliances being removed from stations and changes in staffing.

However, all options involve some station closures.

Stations under threat include seven in Devon: Appledore, Ashburton, Budleigh Salterton, Colyton, Kingston, Topsham and Woolacombe.

In Somerset, Porlock station is also under review.

The Fire Brigades Union said it was concerned about any "potential station closures, the possible loss of firefighters' jobs and cuts in fire cover".

It also said the move may mean increases in response times.

Chief Fire Officer Lee Howell said he understood it would be a "difficult time" for communities and affected staff.

If the fire authority agrees, a 12-week public consultation will be held from July to 20 September.

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