Fire chief Ann Millington announces cuts in firefighter numbers following reduction in number of blazes
The number of full-time firefighters in Kent could be slashed because of a massive fall in blazes over the past decade.
In 2003 there were nearly 14,000 fires (13,924) across the county. That has plummeted to 4,218 last year.
Now the Kent and Medway Fire and Rescue Authority has released its annual safety plan, which reveals fires have fallen by a whopping 70% in that time.
Fire engine. Library picture
The authority is looking to reduce the number of firefighters it employs - removing one crew member for each seven-person full-time watch.
That means a reduction of 98 crew members over the next two to three years, out of a total of around 800 full-time firefighters.
It also needs to save £10m over the next three years, and plans to raise the amount we pay in council tax by 3p to £1.31 a week for a Band D home.
Authority chairman Nick Chard said: "Our challenge is to continue to deliver a first class service as cost effectively as possible.
"The community safety work we have done over the years has paid dividends and we have seen a huge reduction in fires and other incidents.
"Alongside that, advances in technology, excellent firefighter training and modernised ways of working are allowing us to work smarter."
Fire engine at the scene of a crash
The plan also includes moves to improve fire cover in the evenings and weekends by increasing the hours day-crewed firefighters respond immediately from their station by an extra 35 hours a week.
This means an immediate response from the station for 12 hours a day, seven days a week.
On-call fire cover across the county will also be boosted, with more on-call engines available and on-call crews being manned by a minimum of three firefighters instead of four in certain circumstances.
Ann Millington, chief executive of Kent fire and Rescue Service
But the number of engines used for high buildings will be cut from five to three.
The report hopes to see most of the job losses through normal staff turnover such as retirement, rather than compulsory redundancy.
Ann Millington, chief executive of KFRS, said: "The county is changing fast and we have to do the same.
"In previous years, we made sure we have stations in the right location for modern day needs.
"Now we are looking at how we can work differently in ways that will maintain emergency cover but also help us make essential savings of £10 million over the next three years.
The plan will go to the authority's planning and performance committee on November 5, with public consultation running between November 11 and January 13.
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