TOP Essex firefighters were quizzed by councillors on Thursday (17 March) over proposals to reduce the number of fire engine “pumps” across the county and Thurrock.
Members of Thurrock Council’s Cleaner, Greener, and Safer Overview and Scrutiny Committee – with one of the two council representatives on the Fire Authority and two leading opposition councillors – heard a 45 minute presentation from acting Chief Fire Officer Adam Eckley.
Mr Eckley was present with Grays’ divisional officer Matt Hughes.
Speaking after the meeting, committee chair Cllr Roy Jones said: “The fire service’s plans are very close to my heart and I would like everyone in Thurrock to take part in their consultation which continues into the middle of April.
“Their proposals suggest cutting the number of pumps on Thurrock – at Grays, Orsett and the retained station at Corringham – by either a half or a third.
“We heard Mr Eckley defend his position quite eloquently and he said he was confident the proposals would not cut the time it took the service to reach an incident.
“He said the service had followed cross-party agreement at the fire authority not to close any fire stations and he said they were concentrating efforts on home fires and road accidents where there were still large numbers of incidents.”
Cllr Jones added: “He told us his service’s work had dramatically cut the number of incidents they had to respond to; they installed fire alarms in homes, and they talked with thousands of children and young people every year.
“That’s all well and good. I mean that, it’s an impressive record and should be applauded, but I believe Thurrock is unique, we have an ever-growing population, we have an ever-growing and changing industrial base; we have hundreds of thousands of visitors every day at the shopping centres; we have more COMAH or Control of Major Accident Hazards sites than the rest of the county, we have the ports, the busy roads, the motorway and the crossing.
“Comparing Thurrock with Dunmow is like comparing it with Trumpton; there is no comparison.”
He said: “Mr Eckley claimed that if circumstances meant more pumps were needed to be based here they would be, but I find that very hard to believe. Once something’s cut it is gone. He said it was a ‘risk-based judgement’, but I don’t think he should play a risk game with our lives.
“These proposed reductions follow cuts in government grants they admit that.
“But had the fire service believed it was right to reduce the number of appliances before the cuts they would surely have suggested it, five or ten years ago. I am not convinced.”
The fire service consultation can be accessed through Thurrock Council’s website at thurrock.gov.uk and click on the Have my say button.