5 firefighters from Ryde and 2 from Newport are currently employed on temporary, rolling contracts to help boost the number of firefighters available at the 2 stations without employing permanent staff.
However, crews have been told this week that their contracts will not be renewed on 31st December. As a result, there will be 7 less firefighters available from 1st January 2019.
Sources say the effect will be largely felt at Ryde Fire Station where a reduction in the number of day crew firefighters could mean the station struggles to mobilise all appliances. It’s said that it is entirely possible that just 1 pump could end up ‘on the run’.
There will also be an effect at Newport, where their second (retained) appliance is already struggling to turn out due to crew shortage. This was highlighted on Sunday when a reported fire at Carisbrooke Castle prompted a response of 2 appliances – 1 from Newport and 1 from Shanklin.
The news comes just days after Island Echo revealed that several firefighters have been taken off the run for failing a fitness test. Between 10 and 20 firefighters are sat at home having failed to pass the stringent testing, but Island Echo is told that some of those men and women are quitting the service altogether meaning a further, permanent reduction in the number of life-savers on the Isle of Wight.
Despite dwindling numbers, recruitment for new retained firefighters is not thought to be going well. Island Echo is told by several sources just 3 applications are being taken forward at this moment in time. No number of new recruits will replace the decades of experience being lost in the service through retirement, failed fitness tests and contract expiration.
UPDATE @ 12:30 – The Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service say that the reduction in firefighters won’t effect the availability of full-time fire engines on the Island…
Howard Watts, the Island’s senior fire officer, has this afternoon said:
“Seven temporary contracts were always due to end on 31 December.
“This will not change the availability of full-time fire engines on the Island.
“As part of the service review, staff are currently developing their own shift systems to ensure even more cover is available.
“The firefighters on temporary contracts can return to their on-call duties once their current role ends.
Despite reports of there being only 3 appliances on the run at times yesterday, Howard Watts has gone on to say:
“The on-call resource is already providing a safe level of cover on the Island but this will bolster it further, taking the total to 95.
“All fire services would love to have more, including on the Island, where the ideal total would be 115 on-call firefighters.
“However, the Island has never had this level of on-call cover”.
Watts has also said that there has been a strong level of interest in the advertised retained firefighter positions across the Island. But ‘interest’ is very different to successful applications…
“The Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service is constantly recruiting more on-call firefighters and the current campaign has attracted a strong level of interest.”