Sheppey green watch manager Andy Bridger-Smart
There is still time for Islanders to have their say on money-saving changes to Kent Fire and Rescue Service.
As part of its safety plan, alterations are needed to cut more than £10 million from its operations over the next three years.
Speaking to members of the public at the Sheppey Local Engagement Forum last Tuesday, watch manager at the Sheppey fire station, Andy Bridger-Smart, said crews will have to “work smarter” and may have to adapt “what we respond with and who we respond with”.
One option is to reduce staff, meaning that rather than five firefighters responding to an incident, there could be four.
He insisted fire crews do not want to be “defensive” in their job – reluctant to respond to risks – but said: “It’s all in the safety plan. It’s about turning up in the right way so that we can do the job and do it well.”
He said efforts in the last three years to get the “right fire stations in the right place” saw eight in the county close, including one in Queenborough, while five new ones are to be built.
He said investment in new technology may also help to improve efficiency and reduce risk to the lives of staff.
A high pressured water jet, called COBRA, can rapidly reduce the temperature inside a burning building by cutting a hole through a wall from the outside and spraying in water.
Cutting equipment and engines coming to the end of their lives may also be replaced.
Another suggestion is to increase working hours to 10am to 10pm, seven days a week.
Currently, the Sheppey fire station is manned from 9am to 6pm and 9am to 1pm on Saturdays and Sundays and crews are on call to respond to any fires at night.
There are proposals to end a three-year freeze on the fire service’s council tax precept, by increasing it equivalent to 3p a week extra for a Band D household, to £1.34 a week.
Mr Bridger-Smart urged everyone to respond to a public consultation on the safety plan which ends on January 11.
Have your say online at www.kent.fire-uk.org.uk.
Paper copies can be requested on 01622 692121.