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Spending cuts see fire response times soar on Canvey
2:40pm Wednesday 4th July 2012 in Castle Point
RESPONSE times to fires on Canvey have soared since full-time fire crews on the island were scrapped.
The island’s fire station, in Long Road, is only manned by retained fire crews after full-time firefighters were replaced last October.
Retained firefighters are fully trained, but are not based at the fire station, meaning officers have to travel there to get changed, before driving the fire engine to an incident.
Information obtained under a Freedom of Information request reveals average duty response times increased by more than two minutes since the change, while the average maximum response time rose by eight-and-a-half minutes.
Since November, the station’s average monthly responses have also consistently exceeded eight minutes, rising to more than ten minutes in December.
Prior to the switch-over, the average monthly response time hovered between six and seven minutes.
In March 2012, the average response time was eight minutes 56 seconds.
Charlie Carlton, 20, of Somnes Avenue, Canvey, said: “The fire service promised this would not have an impact on response times and it clearly has.
“In those extra two minutes you never know what could happen. It could be the difference between saving a life and not.”
Essex Fire and Rescue Service made the changes as part of £1.4million cutbacks countywide and hopes to save £845,000 a year.
However, Ruth Chapman, 65, of the Castle Point Against the Cuts campaign, questioned whether the cuts were worth it. She said: “Canvey is already a high-risk area because of all the gas terminals, but no area should have its essential services cut.
“We shouldn’t have to take this just because we are in a recession, but unfortunately, until it touches you personally, many people are unwilling to stand up about it.
“We are already seeing the effects in these response times.”
A spokesman for Essex County Fire and Rescue Service said: “There was always an expectation that response times would increase, based on the fact that retained firefighters respond from their homes and are given five minutes to turnout.
“On that basis, a response time of eight to nine minutes means they are getting to incidents wherever they are within three to four minutes of turning out from the station.
“Since the move to retained firefighters, Essex County Fire and Rescue Service has used mixed crewing to ensure Canvey’s rescue pump remained on the run, and availability has significantly improved.
“There has been no increase in appliances from elsewhere being the first appliance to be mobilised to incidents on Canvey