'Lives put at risk' by fire service cuts, says union

The Fire Brigades Union has expressed alarm at changes for Eccleston fire station
The Fire Brigades Union has expressed alarm at changes for Eccleston fire station
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Lives are being put at risk by plans to only offer a retained fire engine at a station in St Helens overnight, it has been claimed.

Proposals have been put forward to change the duty system for Eccleston fire station.

Currently there is a full-time crew overnight, between 8.30pm and 8.30pm.

But under a reorganisation by Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service, this is set to be replaced by a retained engine, whose crew must live within 30 minutes of the station.

Immediate cover will be provided by St Helens, Newton-le-Willows and Kirkby fire stations, according to service bosses.

The Fire Brigades Union claims though that the combined effect of the cuts will affect public safety.

Kevin Hughes, FBU brigade secretary, said: "These dangerous cuts could cost lives. In the Eccleston, St Helens and Newton le-Willows area of Merseyside, only one engine will be immediately available during the night.

"It is a shocking state of affairs and should worry everyone in our community. If two incidents are called in at the same time or if there is a major emergency requiring multi-engine response, it will inevitably cause delays in getting firefighters to the scene of the incident.

"The speed and weight of response is crucial when it comes to saving lives and limiting the spread of a fire. If we don’t get this right it means the work the firefighters can do to save lives is severely curtailed.

"It puts the public, as well as the firefighters themselves, at greater risk of serious injury or even worse.

"For the sake of public safety, the government need to reverse the damaging cuts to the fire service which are putting Merseyside communities at risk."

But the county fire service says that the decision is the "least worst option" as it attempts to mitigate cuts in funding, which bosses say will continue until at least 2020.

A Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service spokesman said: "Retained crews will be called to duty overnight if the number of fire appliances drops below a predetermined level, in order to provide support and resilience.

"Immediate response to incidents occurring overnight on the Eccleston station area will be made from St Helens Community Fire Station, as the key station in the St Helens local authority area, supported by Prescot, Newton-le-Willows and Kirkby community fire stations.

"The fire appliance at Eccleston will relocate to the new St Helens fire station which is planned to be built on the Pilkingtons site at Watson Street."

The wider reorganisation also affects appliances at Aintree, Crosby, Kensington, Liverpool City Centre and Wallasey stations.