Friday, 5 July 2013

5 July 2013

The terrible tragedy in Arizona where 19 firefighters lost their lives illustrates the extreme dangers of wild land firefighting; 19 young members of the City of Prescott Fire Department who were part of an elite team of firefighters known as the Granite City Hotshots were tragically killed in the line of duty, working in the most difficult conditions imaginable, to protect their local community; our thoughts and prayers are with their families and friends.

Closer to home, the major blaze at a recycling plant in Smethwick, saw 200 firefighters from the West Midlands Fire & Rescue Service respond  to a very serious fire which it is believed was caused by a 'Chinese Lantern'; in recent years these lanterns have become more popular at celebrations but it is believed they have been responsible for causing a number of fires with farmers representatives claiming they are also a hazard to livestock; a debate is now taking place as to whether there should be an outright ban or stricter controls on these lanterns or whether they can be made safer and less of a fire hazard.

This week also saw the launch of a report by Tobias Elwood, the Conservative MP for Bournemouth East, which talked about major reform of the emergency services recommending the creation of a single fire and ambulance authority for England; a week ago, Home Secretary Theresa May suggested that Fire & Rescue Services should be under the Police and Crime Commissioner whilst the Chancellor's recently announced spending review has seen a further 10% cut to fire and rescue service (FRS) budgets; all in all a lot going on and a lot of discussion on the future of our Service.

We need to ensure we are fully engaged in the debate and discussion otherwise a solution will be imposed upon us which I am not convinced will have been properly thought through; we should not forget the fiasco of the Regional Control Centre project and the huge cost to the public purse of an ill-conceived project that was cancelled at an estimated cost of around £650 million.

That is not to say I am opposed to reform, indeed I have been calling for reform of the FRS for some time.  My own view is that there are too many FRSs in England, as I also believe there are too many Police Forces, and that there is an argument to merge both FRSs and Police Forces on co-terminus boundaries and that the FRS can also do much more emergency trauma care work to support our emergency ambulance service. But, this needs to be properly thought through; Elwood's report makes interesting reading and I would have to agree with the principles outlined in the report, but I'm less convinced of putting FRSs under the Police and Crime Commissioner as I believe structural reform should come before deciding who is in charge.

My Week

  • Spent much of the weekend travelling back from leave and disappointed that in the final match I was watching, the Lions failed to win a close match against the Wallabies - this would have been an historic victory so now have to bite my fingernails this Saturday morning!!!

  • Back at work on Monday and spent time catching up with the team; I wasn't even missed and that's what is so good about having such an experienced and competent Principal Officer Team and Corporate Management Team.

  • Met with the Chairman to talk about the Sussex Control Centre, the spending review and how this affects our medium term plan, opportunities to work with West Sussex FRS, Sussex Police and South East Coast Ambulance; the Chairman has recently met with his opposite number from West Sussex County Council and it would appear that discussions on merger are 'off the table'; the Chairman will also be meeting the Police and Crime Commissioner to discuss any future opportunities to work more closely with Sussex Police.

  • Discussed our capital programme and in particular the major refurbishment at Crowborough which is going well, the new Breathing Apparatus classrooms at Service Training Centre which are also on schedule, progress on the new fire station planned for Newhaven and on-going talks with a number of developers which may provide an opportunity at other fire station sites; the new Aerial Rescue Pump is now in East Sussex and a training programme will commence for firefighters at Eastbourne.

  • Had discussions with the Fire Service College on the arrangements for purchasing training courses; as the College is now in private sector hands we need to be aware of European procurement rules; what is pleasing to note is the contract that is now in place for training firefighters from Saudi Arabia which demonstrates how highly regarded the College is and hopefully we shall see the College go from strength to strength.

  • Prepared draft reports for the Policy & Resources and Scrutiny & Audit Panels which meet next week for the first time with our new Fire Authority; there are a number of important papers for Members to consider in particular the medium term plan and what options the Authority will be considering to meet the savings target over the next 4 years.

  • Met with Richard Fowler to discuss how we can support sprinkler installations in high rise buildings and high risk domestic premises; a number of others FRSs have had success in building partnerships with local housing authorities to install sprinkler systems and we are now looking at opportunities across the City and County area to improve safety in the home.

  • Had a fabulous day out when I went to see my son Ben graduate from Bath University - very proud parents as I am sure many of you who have seen your children go through the graduation ceremony will remember.
Congratulations to Mark Hobbs and Martin Combs who have successfully completed the Level 5 CFPA Europe Advanced Diploma in Fire Prevention; this award is recognised across Europe and is the highest qualification for fire safety inspecting officers; Mark and Martin have put in a huge amount of work and effort to achieve the Diploma and all credit to them for their achievement.

Congratulations also to the Uckfield team of 6 firefighters who successfully undertook the 3 Peaks Challenge in 21 hours 26 minutes gaining a silver medal.  The team managed to raise £2,700 for the Firefighters Charity and Home Start South Downs and took Blaze Bear with them up (and down) every peak!

Crews across the County and City have been busy this week with firefighters from Rye and The Ridge responding to an RTC at Military Road, Rye involving one vehicle; firefighters made the scene safe working with colleagues from Sussex Police.

Crews from the City responded to a request from the RSPCA to rescue a seagull that was trapped in an industrial paint drying oven; firefighters responded but also used the call as a training exercise using the ALP and ASK equipment.

Crews from Bexhill responded to a road traffic collision involving two cars at Fourways, Ninfield Road, Sidley.  Four people were injured in the collision. One person was extricated from a vehicle by firefighters. The Air Ambulance was also in attendance. 

Crews from Pevensey were called out to rescue a little kitten that had become trapped on a second floor roof at a property on Fairmount Road, Old Town, Bexhill. 
Crews from Bohemia Road, Hastings, were mobilised to a report of a fire in the open outside Crabtree Cottage, Archery Road, Saint Leonards, Hastings. Crews arrived to a car well alight. 1:7 foam used, 1 hose reel, 1 breathing apparatus.
Firefighters from Eastbourne were sent to assist ambulance crews at The Arundel Hotel, Meads, Eastbourne. Two people had fallen off a wall into the basement area of building, causing with severe head injuries. Both were taken to hospital by ambulance.

Some very sad news this week when we heard that Bob Noble had passed away; Bob joined our team at ESFRS in IMD as the Comms Technician and later became the caretaker at HQ, Bob suffered from Alzheimer's in recent years, but will be remembered for his great enthusiasm, friendliness to everyone and his great sense of humour; we send our deepest condolences to Bob's family.

This weekend is the Eastbourne 999 event which is always great fun as well as being an opportunity for the emergency services in East Sussex to show the public the wide range of services we provide; there will be displays from ESFRS, Sussex Police, SECamb the local Coastguard.  The weather forecast suggests temperatures will be in the high 20 degrees so bring your family and friends along for what should be a great couple of days out but don't forget your sunscreen!

This Saturday morning ( for those who are not already at the 999 weekend or at Herstmonceux's Station Open Day), make a date for the Lions deciding test match against the Wallabies, 11.00 o'clock on Saturday morning, should be a cracker!!!