Essex Fire Service has been told it must improve its responses to emergencies and requires improvement in more than half of key areas, a report has revealed.

A report by His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services has been published following an inspection in October.

Inspectors found the culture in the fire service had improved but says “there is more work to do” as “poor behaviours” at stations has been allowed to continue.

The service was rated good in three areas and adequate in two but requires improvement in six.

Those included responding to fires and emergencies, best use of resources, and public safety through fire regulation.

The report also found the service has been sending crews to emergency incidents who “aren’t competent” in the use of breathing equipment, potentially putting them and the public at risk.

Between June and November last year, there were 393 incidents which crews attended where they were “deficient” in the use of the apparatus.

Echo: 'Deteriorating' - the number vehicles available to respond to callouts has declined in recent years.'Deteriorating' - the number vehicles available to respond to callouts has declined in recent years. (Image: Ben Shahrabi)

However, the service said it mitigates the risk by assigning an additional fire engine with breathing apparatus capability to ensure it can work safely. It insisted all firefighters will be trained by the end of this month.

The report also found response times took longer last year than the previous period.

In 2022/23, the service attended 82 percent of all incidents within 15 minutes. In 2020/21, this was 86 percent.

The service is supposed to attend all potentially life-threatening calls in an average of ten minutes or less.

In the year ending March 31, 2023, the average response time to potentially life-threatening calls was 10 minutes and 50 seconds.

That was an average of 27 seconds slower than between April 2020 and March 2021.

Inspectors found the number of fire engines which could not be used for callouts has nearly doubled in three years, as some of the fleet is “deteriorating”.

The report stated: “The service should improve the availability of its fire engines to make sure it can respond better to incidents.”

Echo: Optimistic - fire commissioner Roger Hirst Roger Hirst says the report is a 'strong step forward'.Optimistic - fire commissioner Roger Hirst Roger Hirst says the report is a 'strong step forward'. (Image: LDRS)

Essex Police and Fire Commissioner Roger Hirst described the report as “a strong, steady, positive step forward” but admitted more needed to be done. 

He said: “Transformation does not happen overnight, and this turnaround has been achieved through hard work from the Service.

"There is more do, but this report shows we are facing and moving in the right direction.”

Chief Fire Officer Rick Hylton added: "We have sound financial plans in place which ensures you get value for money from your fire and rescue service, and we are continuing our journey of improving our Service to make it an inclusive and safe place to work.

"A previous cause for concern from inspectors around our protection function has been removed and this is testament to the great, proactive work our teams are doing.” 

Read the report here.