Fire control closure ‘ludicrous’

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A DECISION to close Suffolk’s fire control centre has this week been branded ‘ludicrous’ and could impact on public safety.

On Monday, Suffolk County Council decided to close the Ipswich-based fire control and relocate it 70 miles away in Huntingdon.

The move was supposed to be an interim measure ahead of the opening of new regional control centres – but at the same time that the council was making its decision, the Government was announcing that the regional control centres will no longer go ahead.

Despite this, the county move will still go ahead. The authority argues there will be no impact on public or firefighter safety – something that the Fire Brigades Union disagrees with

“Primarily this was proposed as an interim measure. Our opinion is that this changes the risks to public safety therefore the public need to be consulted on this issue,” said acting Suffolk FBU secretary Andy Message.

“From the start, we said the regional centre couldn’t work and would be too expensive and we have been proved right and we think we will be proved right about the merger with Cambridgeshire as well. There are a lot of things that could go wrong and just one error could be one too many.”

One of the major concerns is over a scheme unique to Suffolk called Fire and Carers Together. The Suffolk fire control room holds a database on disabled and vulnerable people, telling firefighters what room of a building they sleep in and if the building contains oxygen cylinders.

“We need to have as much information as we can when we arrive at an incident about what’s inside and if we aren’t given the information we are given now, that could impact on firefighter safety as well as the public,” said Firefighter Message.

Lib Dem councillor John Field said he suspected the council decision was purely ‘cost cutting’.

“It is ludicrous,” he said. “If you have an accident on a country road in the county, you don’t know the postcode, but can describe some local landmarks, local control room staff can then locate the incident quickly and despatch fire appliances.”