Fife fire cuts: firefighters' fears for future as Fife stations face up to cuts

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Firefighters have warned that controversial cuts about to come into force at fire stations across Fife are putting savings before safety.

Second or third fire appliances are set to go from stations in Glenrothes, Leven and Dunfermline, while the height appliance at Kirkcaldy is being removed with cover coming from Dunfermline - some 15-miles from the Lang Toun.

The Scottish Fire & Rescue Service (SFRS) plans have sparked a huge backlash. The appliances are being moved temporarily for up to one year, but with crews finalising plans to transfer to new stations, there is a belief they won’t be restored in 2024.

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The service needs to find savings of £36m over the next four years with Its flat cash settlement from the Scottish Government at the root of the problem. It also says it wants to modernise - but its plans have been met with strong criticism from politicians and the Fire Brigades Union (FBU).

The height appliance at Kirkcaldy Fire StationThe height appliance at Kirkcaldy Fire Station
The height appliance at Kirkcaldy Fire Station

Gregg Campbell, branch secretary at Kirkcaldy Fire Station, said: “There is real concern among firefighters over these cuts. They will have a massive impact on their safety and that of the public. Losing secondary machines from Glenrothes and Leven will have a huge impact on how we tackle fire scenes.”

The loss of the height appliance from Kirkcaldy is a source of particular concern.

The FBU said it had been called to 96 turnouts in the last five years - not all of them fires - and, despite its age, it was given a major service just six months ago and “passed with flying colours.”

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Added Gregg: “It takes us two minutes to get to Victoria Hospital or the multi storey flats at Ravenscraig - that same journey will take 20-25 minutes coming from Dunfermline. It may look old but it is a good machine to use. It does its job.”The FBU also said fire crews had to undertake training before being allowed to handle the replacement vehicle which is being moved from Crewe Toll in Edinburgh to Dunfermline.

“When you call for a fire engine, you get on within five minutes,” added Gregg. “That might not be the case after September 4. No gurantees - it could be 20 minutes, and that changes what we do at fire scenes.

“With two appliances going together you have nine firefighters and you put everything in place. When you are down to five, resources are limited, and that impacts on firefighter safety - and it is drilled into us from day one, firefighter safety first.”

Alex Rowley, MSP for Mid-Scotland and Fife, is campaigning to reverse the cuts and wants the Scottish Government to come forward with more funding. He has organised a public meeting for August 23 at the Fire Station Creative in Dunfermline.

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It comes as the SFRS published its detailed report on the road ahead. It said: “Like all public services, we are operating in a challenging financial period and require to save at least £36 million across the next four years. The temporary withdrawal of these second or third appliances is necessary to help us to meet our immediate financial challenges within this timeframe.”But the report stressed not all decisions were financially driven - it also wanted to “modernise as a service to ensure we are best placed to meet the changing risk and demand we face across Scotland.”

It said changes to high reach vehicles - ultimately they will number just 14 after two tiers of withdrawals - was part of a ten-year operational strategy.

Mr Rowley said: “Fife has already been disproportionately affected, and yet, fire chiefs are trying to tell us this will not affect community safety. This cannot be true. How is it possible to maintain the same level of fire cover with fewer fire engines and fewer firefighters?"