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Bembridge and Yarmouth Fire Stations – the least used on the Island – could close under new proposals to shake up the Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service, which could also see the loss of a number of specialist appliances.

A full review is currently underway to look at how best to fundamentally transform the way the service operates. The last review was carried out some 8 years ago with a number of changes suggested, many of which didn’t actually come to fruition.

Now, 3 different plans are being floated which will change the face of the Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service forever. Full-sized appliances across the Island could make way for a mix of just 4 rescue pumps and a series of intermediate pumps and first response vehicles.

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Under the proposals Automatic Fire Alarms (AFAs) will be responded to with more appropriate resources, such as a 2-man first response vehicle. Staggeringly, more than 50% of call outs over the past 5 years have been for AFAs with 98.4% – 2,019 calls – deemed a false alarm.

In addition, firefighters will start to respond to life-threatening medical incidents on behalf of the Isle of Wight Ambulance Service. This plan has been in the pipeline for sometime and it is thought a dedicated vehicle will be based at Ryde to begin with.

Other options being put forward include the loss of 1 of 2 aerial ladder platforms, the removal of the High Volume Pump (HVP) used in major fires and flooding situations, and the removal of the Mass Decontamination Unit from Ryde.

1 of the Island’s 2 aerial ladder platforms (left) could be lost under the proposals

The Incident Command Unit from Newport could be manned by office staff during a large incident and all rope/water rescues handed over to HM Coastguard, who currently only operate to the high water mark and on cliffs. The aging Animal Rescue Unit would be scrapped and all equipment transferred to the Rescue Tender.

Island Echo understands that it is also being proposed that Ryde Fire Station could become partially wholetime with 12-hour shifts operating 7 days a week. The station is currently Day Crewed meaning firefighters are on station during normal working hours between Monday and Friday, with a retained system in action during the evenings and weekends. It is quite possible that Ryde will lose its third pumping appliance.

Looking at the station statistics for 2016, as gathered by Island Echo, Bembridge and Yarmouth were the least mobilised stations on the Isle of Wight last year and had the least availability for retained crews. The 2 stations are known for often being ‘off the run’ – a term used when the appliance cannot be mobilised due to a lack of crew.

Isle of Wight Fire Stations – 2016 call out statistics

Station Number of shouts Status
Newport 663 Wholetime
Cowes 89 Retained
East Cowes 41 Retained
Ryde 406 Day Crewed
Bembridge 25 Retained (lowest availability – 57.7% in Sept 2016)
Sandown 79 Retained
Shanklin 123 Retained
Ventnor 65 Retained
Freshwater 71 Retained
Yarmouth 13 Retained (lowest availability – 48% in Sept 2016)

As it stands, if Yarmouth Fire Station was to close there would be just 1 fire appliance at Freshwater Fire Station covering the entire West Wight. However, the proposals suggest placing additional resources at Freshwater to make up for the loss of Yarmouth. The next nearest station would be Newport some 11 miles away.

A fire in the heart of Freshwater on Monday saw appliances from Freshwater, Newport and Ryde attend. Yarmouth were off the run.

The impact of closing Bembridge Fire Station would be felt less with appliances from Ryde and Sandown already frequently covering the Bembridge patch – Ryde being around 6 miles away and Sandown just 4.5 miles.

Howard Watts, Local Senior Officer for IWFRS has said that the aim of the review is to focus resources in areas of greatest risk and deliver the best value service to the public.

The service review will go before the Isle of Wight Council’s Cabinet on 15th February 2018.

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