Published on Friday, 26th February 2016

 

Earlier this week the Hampshire Fire and Rescue Authority met to sign off plans to reconfigure the fire service to make it more effective over the coming years.

 

The Risk Review has been under development for two years and will take a further three to actually implement. It will see the service move away from being one just based on full size fire engines to one where there is a mixture. In many areas crewing levels will be reduced at night to reflect the fact that few fires occur after about 10pm. The latest firefighting technology will be introduced.

 

In the Portsmouth area, Cosham will have the number of firemen and the vehicle mix will be essentially as it is now. The Southsea station - which is actually located in Somerstown - will see some more extensive changes with the introduction of a First Response Vehicle and the removal of the extra crew for the Aerial Ladder Platform.

 

Multiple vehicles are always dispatched to any property fire, but the smaller First Response Vehicle is likely to arrive first as it is smaller and nimbler than the other engines. It is important to note that it is a proper fire engine, as its £170,000 price tag attests. It will always dispatch with four crew if that number are available.

 

Some myths have developed about fire risk. Last year there were just three fires in the dockyard and two in student halls of residence. Meanwhile the 30m ladder on the Aerial Ladder Platform was dispatched just sixteen times in that same period. That piece of equipment is being kept, but it is hard to justify employing eight people solely to man a vehicle that is so infrequently used. The fire service operates four shifts (or watches) and the number of calls is such that on average there will be three month gaps between call outs.

 

I am a member of the fire authority and I used my vote to put through the changes - as did all bar one of the 24 members present. The LibDems tried putting through an amendment to review Southsea yet again, but quite honestly that looked like a gimmick given all the work that has already occurred and I was more than happy to vote against it.

 

The final aspect of this is new technology. Many fire engines will in future have a high pressure lance, which is a piece of equipment largely new to the UK and which solves the problem of stoking up a building fire when a door or window is opened. It fires iron filings under high pressure to cut a small hole in the wall and then follows up with very high pressure water. This forms a steam cloud and in the demonstration I have seen, it quickly reduced room temperature from 400C to about 100C. There’s an advertising video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0wBhYLvZZZE which gives a flavour of how it works.

 

Tags: Fire Authority