Removing Midhurst fire engine will create a ‘void’

Midhurst firefighters on a training exercise Picture by Kate Shemilt.C140219-7 SUS-140218-131623001
Midhurst firefighters on a training exercise Picture by Kate Shemilt.C140219-7 SUS-140218-131623001

MIDHURST town councillors have expressed concerns over proposals to remove the second fire engine from the town’s fire station as part of cuts to the West Sussex fire and rescue service budget.

The cuts are part of a package of proposals across the county aimed at saving £1.6m next year on the fire service budget.

Proposals include taking the second engine from Midhurst, Petworth and Storrington, leaving one fire engine and a 4x4 at each station.

In a report which was due to go before the county council’s environment and communities selection committee yesterday, members were told that in 2012-2013 the second fire engine went out to only 28 calls from Midhurst compared with 214 attended by the first engine.

Midhurst’s county councillor Gordon McAra told fellow members of the town council the cuts were being proposed not only to save money, but also to use resources in the best way possible. He said Midhurst’s 4x4 would be upgraded so it could carry more equipment and more firefighters. The service was also looking at providing a water carrier in Midhurst, which is surrounded by heathland.

“Although you never like to lose anything, on the other hand what we are potentially being given is very 
sensible from an operational point of view,” he said.

He said he had asked for reassurances the situation would be constantly monitored, “as there is a lot more housing development planned in the town.”

Chairman of the town council John Etherington told fellow members: “We have been down this road before.”

He said he was concerned if Midhurst and Petworth had only one engine and these were sent elsewhere as cover: “there is going to be a big void somewhere.”

And Margaret Guest said she wanted a chance to debate the issue with more information.

“I am thinking about the situation when we have a very serious fire and tenders have to come from other areas. If stations only have one, there isn’t going to be the flexibility to cope with a major fire.”

John Quilter said technology changed and as long as the matter was continually under review: “we have to accept it.”

For more on the cuts, see this week’s Behind the Headlines (May 15).