A campaign has been launched to save Corby’s under-threat second fire engine and 12 full-time firefighter posts.
Fire Brigades Union vice-chairman Gary Mitchell says that plans to scrap one of the town’s two pumps will mean that if firefighters arrive on the scene of a major fire, they may face a delay of up to 20 minutes before they can enter the building.
There are 48 firefighters employed in four watches at the town’s Phoenix Parkway fire station.
In their integrated risk management plan for the forthcoming year, force bosses want to cut that number to 36 by removing the second pump and replacing it with a Ford Transit-style van equipped with Cobra, a system for putting out fires using iron filings. That van would be manned only by two people.
Mr Mitchell, who has been a firefighter in Corby for many years, said: “This is about cost-cutting. It’s not being done for the benefit of the community.
“It’s worrying to think that the safety of the public and firefighters are being put at risk. We have started a petition and gained 700 signatures in four hours which shows how much people care about this.”
At present, if there is a house fire in Corby, one pump with five firefighters and another with four will usually turn out. Under the Cobra plan, the second vehicle would only have two firefighters.
If the crews need to enter the house to rescue someone, they could have to wait around 20 minutes for a back-up crew to arrive from a neighbouring fire station in Kettering, Desborough, Oundle or Uppingham.
Mr Mitchell said: “There will be a reduction of 12 posts at Corby. We have four watches of 12 people covering the town 24 hours a day. This will be reduced to 36 whole-time firefighters.”
If the cuts are given the green light, they will come into force in April.
The county’s chief fire officer, Martyn Emberson, accepted the proposals were not ideal but added that they were the best balance between public safety, firefighter safety and the need to make financial savings.
He said: “We are cutting in terms of number of firefighters but we are uplifting the capability of what the station can do.
“It’s not an ideal situation to be in. In an ideal world I would do things very differently. If money was no issue I would have two or three whole-time crews at every station in the brigade.”
He also said that Corby still had a greater cover than most other stations in Northamptonshire, including in similar sized towns such as Kettering and Wellingborough.
However, Corby MP Andy Sawford, who has suported the campaign, said the new Cobra vehicle would not give the public confidence that there would be adequate fire cover.
The MP, who has proposed an adjournment debate on the issue which is planned for today in the House of Commons, said: “It’s not the same as a fire engine and my concern is it will not only put the public at risk but will put firefighters at risk.
“The county council are trying to say that this Cobra vehicle is an adequate replacement, but it’s clearly not.”
The FBU has also gained cross-party support for their campaign from Conservative prospective parliamentary candidate Thomas Pursglove.
The plans are now out to consultation until January 12. FBU members in Corby will be in Corby town centre on Wednesday, December 10, and at the late-night shopping event on Thursday, December 11, to collect signatures.
Officials from the fire brigade will also be in town to explain more about the plans.
The FBU is urging people to respond to the official fire brigade consultation by completing the survey.