Proposals to reduce the count of fire stations and firefighters in North Wales have raised concerns about potential risks to lives, as per a statement by a union.
North Wales Fire and Rescue Service has indicated that it might trim coverage in certain regions to enhance response times for emergency calls in rural areas. However, the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has argued that management should explore alternative ways to improve response times without resorting to cuts.
The fire service has expressed its intention to hold discussions with union leaders to address these apprehensions. In recent years, the service has faced challenges in maintaining adequate staffing levels in rural locales, where firefighters often hold other occupations.
They are currently proposing to deploy full-time firefighters during daytime shifts in Corwen, Dolgellau, and Porthmadog. However, this move necessitates cost savings in other areas, as per management’s assessment.
To gather input from the public in North Wales, they have initiated a consultation offering three options, which will remain open until September 30th. The options include discontinuing night shifts at stations in Rhyl and Deeside, leaving only on-call staff to respond to 999 calls, or eliminating one of the three fire engines stationed in Wrexham and reducing the firefighter workforce by 22 individuals.
A third option combines elements of the first two, along with the closure of Abersoch, Beaumaris, Cerrigydrudion, Conwy, and Llanberis fire stations. This comprehensive approach would result in the loss of 36 full-time firefighters and 38 on-call firefighters.
FBU north Wales secretary Matt Ryan said: “Each option in the consultation means a decline in the quality of existing emergency cover somewhere in north Wales.
“All of them mean removing guaranteed 24 hour cover in Deeside and in Rhyl – these are places with heavy industry, technical industry and areas of deprivation.
“At the moment, the fire engine can be out of the doors [and] there in 90 seconds, day or night. Reducing the cover we have in any area could be dangerous and put lives at risk.”
Dylan Rees, who chairs the North Wales fire authority responsible for the service’s budget, stated that the consultation has received feedback from over 1,200 individuals thus far.
“We still need more people to have their say,” he said.
“When it comes to closing five stations, the public have spoken out very strongly that they are totally against that, and we need to listen to those views.
“What we’re seeing so far is that option one is the preferred option from the public – but I need to stress that we’re not committed to adopting any one of those three options.”
The North Wales fire service has expressed its intention to convene meetings with union leaders to address their concerns and explore any alternative proposals.