A NUMBER of fire stations could be set to close after plans for the 'most significant change for 50 years' were published by the Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service.

The proposals, aimed at boosting fire service coverage in areas where it is most needed, could see a number of stations close and a reduction in other less-used facilities in a bid to provide improved coverage in the face of falling budgets.

Stations which could close include Porlock and Woolacombe, as well as seeing crews stationed at Bridgwater, Taunton and Yeovil reduced, from three to two.

Some stations attend only a handful of fires each year and have more resources than they need while elsewhere, more resources are needed to improve the response, the service said.

A range of options - including the closures and changes to the way crews operate - will go before members of the Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Authority next week.

Should they agree on one of the options, a 12-week public consultation will run from July 1 to September 20.

"The proposals published today seek to address these issues and also create more flexibility and capability to deliver targeted prevention and protection work to reach the most vulnerable members of society and help keep them safe," a fire service spokesperson said.

"The risk has changed in the service area with new housing developments and new road networks in place but most of our fire stations are in the same place they were 50 years ago.

"We need to ensure our fire stations and fire engines are located to be in the right place to meet the demand."

They added: "Risk and our activity has reduced in some areas and increased in other areas.

"The service therefore needs to ensure we are as effective as it can be with the resources available within the context of a shrinking budget."

Rather than simply responding to emergencies when they have occurred from the existing fire stations, the proposals outline an option that puts in place six additional wholetime-crewed fire engines during the day that will move to where the risk is highest.

Sometimes, these will be located in urban areas and sometimes they will be located in rural areas.

"To fund these changes, the service will need to consider closing a number of low risk/low activity fire stations, removal of low risk/low activity fire engines and make some other changes to the way in which some fire engines are crewed," the spokesperson added.

"Demand for fire and rescue service response is reducing, as is the amount of money the service receives, so important decisions need to be made to ensure the budget is spent wisely and efficiently."

Chief fire officer at Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service, Lee Howell, said: “We all know that the main way to save lives is to prevent fires from happening in the first place.

"As a service, we have made great progress but we feel we can and should be doing more to make people and buildings safer.

"At the same time, we need to improve our ability to respond to emergencies and ensure we better match our resources to our risks.

"These proposals aim to do just that.

“We do understand that communities affected by these changes will want more information and we will be engaging with them in the coming months to listen to their views.

"This will also be a difficult time for the staff affected and we are committed to working with them to consider how we might provide options as we move forward.”

There will be a number of ways in which the public can give their views, including a series of public drop-in exhibitions. Further information has been published on the website www.dsfire.gov.uk, he added.

This is The West Country:

FEWER CREWS?: At Bridgwater Fire Station

The options in full:

The six options which will be presented to the Fire Authority are as follows:

Option 1 – Station closures: Station closures at Appledore, Ashburton, Budleigh Salterton, Colyton, Kingston, Porlock, Topsham* and Woolacombe. * Note: One appliance from Topsham will be relocated to Middlemoor.

Option 2 – Station closures and removal of third appliances: Option 1, plus: Bridgwater, Taunton, Torquay and Yeovil Fire Stations all have three fire engines (two of which are crewed by ‘on call staff’). It is proposed that one of these ‘on call’ fire engines is removed from each of the four stations outlined.

Option 3 – Station closures, removal of third and second appliances: Option 2, plus: Crediton, Lynton, Martock and Totnes all have two fire engines. It is proposed that one of these fire engines is removed from each of the four stations outlined.

Option 4 – Station closures, removal of third and second appliances and change of status to day crewing: Option 3, plus: Barnstaple, Exmouth and Paignton currently have whole time crew on these fire stations 24/7. It is proposed that the station still operates on a 24/7 basis but at night, the fire engines are crewed by ‘on call’ staff.

Option 5 – Station closures, removal of third and second appliances, change of status to day crewing and to on-call at night only: Option 4, plus: Brixham, Chard, Dartmouth, Frome, Honiton, Ilfracombe, Okehampton, Sidmouth, Tavistock, Teignmouth, Tiverton, Wellington, Wells and Williton Fire Stations all have two fire engines. Rather than take away the second fire engine from these stations, it is proposed that the first fire engine is still crewed 24/7 with ‘on call’ staff but the second fire engine is crewed at night.

Option 6 - Station closures, removal of third and second appliances, change of status to day crewing, on-call at night only and introduction of day crewed roving appliances: Option 5, plus: It is proposed that six day-crewed fire engines (with trained Firefighters on the fire engine) are introduced which will be deployed in areas of forecasted high risk and/or where gaps in ‘on call’ cover is presented. These firefighters will undertake additional fire prevention visits and building fire protection inspections to help make people and buildings safer. They will be available to immediately respond to incidents and improve response times in the area located. Note: these 6 fire wholetime crewed (Full Time Equivalent) fire engines are in addition to the current wholetime fire stations that will be unaffected during the day. These existing wholetime fire stations are: Bridgwater, Taunton, Yeovil, Exeter (Danes Castle), Exeter (Middlemoor), Barnstaple, Torquay, Paignton, Plymouth (Crownhill), Plymouth (Greenbank), Plymouth (Camels Head).