Firefighters warn slashing night time cover in Sheffield could put lives at risk

Firefighters have raised concerns about the proposed changes
Firefighters have raised concerns about the proposed changes
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Firefighters have warned plans to reduce night time cover in Sheffield could put lives at risk.

Only one of the two engines at Sheffield Central fire station would be permanently manned overnight, under new cost-cutting proposals.

Sheffield Central fire station, where overnight cover would be cut under the proposals

Sheffield Central fire station, where overnight cover would be cut under the proposals

A crew would be on call to man the second fire engine as required, but union bosses say the extra time taken to respond could prove deadly.

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue says the plans, announced on Monday (February 13), will ensure more firefighters are available during the day when crews are busiest.

It claims they will enable it to provide the best possible cover and add two fire engines to its fleet while avoiding closing any stations amid further budget cuts.

But Neil Carbutt, secretary of the Fire Brigades Union's South Yorkshire branch, said he had grave concerns about the proposed reduction in night time cover.

"Fire kills, and austerity kills. The fire service is saying more fires happen during the day time, but what they're not saying is that a high proportion of serious and fatal fires occur during the hours of darkness because fires take longer to spot then," he said.

The fire service has already reduced or is in the process of reducing overnight cover at Barnsley, Rotherham and Doncaster fire stations.

Mr Carbutt said it had failed to provide figures about the impact on response times since the change was introduced in Barnsley six months ago.

The brigade says it has already lost more than £14m in government funding since 2010, and its annual budget is set to shrink further from £50.8m this year to £49.2m in 2019/20.

Deputy Chief Fire Officer Martin Blunden said: "Our vision for the lifetime of this plan is to provide the best possible service to the people of South Yorkshire within the resources which are available to us.

"We are not proposing any further significant changes to our core 999 service, beyond those outlined in previous plans. But the proposals we have outlined in this plan do explain how we intend to develop our service to become more efficient in what we do and make the biggest possible difference to those most at risk of fire.

"These are draft proposals and we really want to gather views from the public on the plans we have put forward."

The draft plans, covering the period from 2017 to 2020, also include proposals to develop what the brigade describes as a Marauding Terrorist Firearm Attack response team, among other measures.

Clive Betts, MP for Sheffield South East, called for assurances there would be a public review into the impact of any changes once they had been in place for six months.

Members of the public can view the brigade's draft Integrated Risk Management Plan in full and have their say online at www.syfire.gov.uk.

A series of roadshows are also planned during the six-week consultation period, after which the local fire authority will make a final decision.

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