Dangerous Cuts Put on Hold By Isle of Wight Scrutiny Committee

The Scrutiny Committee have recommended that the decision is deferred until April’s Cabinet meeting, with a public information event to take place between now and then.

Isle of Wight Resident and fire fighter could be put at risk. Firefighters faced with massive moral dilemmas under plans to cut the number of riders on a fire appliance from 5 to 4, as well as reducing the overall number of firefighters on the Island.

Fire crews are up in arms that massive changes to the Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service are to be hurried through without any consultation with the public, as previously reported and agreed.

A decision on whether or not a list of proposed changes has taken place by the Scrutiny Committee tonight (Tuesday) and is was then to decided upon on by the Cabinet on Thursday this has now been shelved with a public information session to place.

For 12 hours a day it is proposed that there will be a minimum of 12 firefighters ready to mobilise to an incident within 90 seconds. They would be based at Newport, Ryde and Sandown. However, for the other 12 hours of the day that figure is cut to a minimum of just 4. Currently, there are a minimum of 7 firefighters available 24 hours a day in Newport and the same at Ryde, between 09:00-17:00.

A total of 8 wholetime firefighter posts and 5 retained posts are under threat, which the Fire Brigade’s Union (FBU) says would devastate the small brigade as it constitutes 15% of the entire firefighting workforce. The Fire Brigade Union are also saying that if the changes are pushed through then fire and crash victims will have to wait longer to be rescued.

Although officials say that most incidents occur during the day, some of the more notable and serious fires occur at night.

Case Study – High Street Blaze, Shanklin

At 03:01 on 18th February last year a serious fire broke out in Shanklin. The first appliance on scene was a retained pump from nearby Shanklin Fire Station. At the time the pump was crewed by 5 firefighters – a safe number to enter the building and carry out a rescue of any persons trapped inside. Initially, a further 5 firefighters were mobilised from Newport’s wholetime station and 5 more retained firefighters from Sandown.

The response meant that within minutes crews had the ability to safely enter the property with at least 10 more firefighters en-route, but several minutes behind. Newport’s appliance didn’t arrive at the scene in Shanklin until 03:18 – at least 5 minutes behind Shanklin.

If the same fire was to happen after the proposed changes, it is possible that just 4 firefighters would be on scene with a further 8 en-route at the same response times as present. According to the FBU’s safety procedures, 4 is not a safe number in which to commit crews to a burning building leaving the initial responders with a moral battle – enter the building and risk their lives, or wait for the second appliance and risk the lives of those trapped inside.

In this instance, a pump at immediate readiness in Ryde and Sandown for 12 hours a day would have made no difference as the fire broke out during the early hours of the morning.

Firefighters tackling the case study incident – but 1 of the Island’s aerial appliances could soon be lost
There is confusion as to why the Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service are not investing more heavily in the retained capability across the Island.
Retained numbers are extremely low at some stations, which could spell disaster during the night if the station is off the run. Only 3 stations – Freshwater, Newport and Shanklin – are at the optimum level of 11 retained firefighters.

IWFRS Headcount – 31st Jan 2018
Newport Wholetime 40
Newport Retained 11
Cowes Retained 9
East Cowes Retained 8
Ryde Wholetime 18
Ryde Retained 9
Bembridge Retained 6
Sandown Retained 8
Shanklin Retained 11
Ventnor Retained 9
Freshwater Retained 11
Yarmouth Retained 4
Total 144
Although all 10 fire stations on the Island look set to remain open, it has not been made clear how each station will be equipped and whether or not the total number of full-sized fire appliances will drop.

It’s not just fires which could pose a potential issue… road traffic collisions in which a person or persons are trapped can be resource heavy. 4 firefighters will struggle to safely and quickly extricate a patient, especially if the second appliance is a considerable distance away.

Spencer Cave, Secretary of the FBU in the Isle of Wight, has said:

“This is simply local democracy under assault. The council and service managers know they will face a backlash over their plans for a more dangerous service and have decided they have the right to bypass the public altogether.

“We were told that the review was not about finances and if the Isle of Wight required more crews or finances then they would consider it. However, their preferred option is based purely on budget saving and not on risk, or the safety of the public and firefighters. They are selling a cuts package as an improvement.

“The risk facing Isle of Wight residents has not been reduced but the service charged with rescuing them will be if these changes are given the go-ahead. The speed and weight of the fire service response is essential in the first stages of a fire or a rescue and is paramount to its success. To cut crews is simply dangerous. ”

A Facebook group has been set up to discuss the Island’s review and what it means for the public. Head over to