The Devon and Somerset Fire Service has recently undertaken a review of its services and care now consulting on proposals that involve the closure of a number of small fire stations, including one in my constituency, namely that in the tiny but beautiful village of Kingston. More of that in a moment.
The idea behind the review is better to match risks and resources, in other words to make sure that the likely emergency hotspots receive the greatest amount of cover and attention. I was delighted to learn that the substantial training station at Plympton remains unaffected, as does Ivybridge, and the station at Plymstock is to be increased in size and upgraded. So far so good.
It is very much to the credit of the fire brigade that the number of fires in houses has fallen dramatically in recent years, due in no small measure to their excellent advice and fire prevention strategies. Of course the Fire Service do not just attend fires – far from it. Many Road Traffic Accidents require fire engines to attend and it is there that the crews must see some very terrible sights. We salute them one and all.
On to Kingston. Following the proposals I arranged to go and see Kingston crew to hear their side of the story. To a man, they are very keen to remain open. They are all volunteers and their efforts cost us a pittance for the service they give and the risks they take. They talked me through the Fire Services’ analysis and made a number of important points. This has given me the ammunition to go back to the Chief Fire Officer and argue the case for Kingston to be reprieved. Naturally, the whole village is backing them and many letters and emails have poured into my office.
Although attending relatively few shouts in their own area last year, the Kingston crew do support the teams from Ivybridge and further afield in attending major events. Their 25 year old fire engine is well looked after and is good for a few more years yet, and is better at negotiating small rural lanes than more modern appliances. These volunteers were all utterly committed to serving their local community and helping to keep it safe.
They made a compelling case and I am doing my best to get the Fire Service to reconsider. The constant drift towards more and more centralised services is not always wise.