Fire chiefs are targeting Seaham station for shake-up as they battle to balance the books.
County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service (CDDFRS) needs to slash almost £450,000 from its budget next year.
In a bid to make ends meet bosses have drawn up plans for an overhaul of staffing levels at several stations.
Currently, Seaham is staffed by firefighters working from 7am – 7pm and outside these hours they stay in nearby accommodation so they can respond quickly to night incidents.
As a minimum change, fire chiefs are considering moving to an ‘on-call’ system at night, with staff called into work within five minutes of an alarm being raised.
A similar shift pattern is already used in Spennymoor and it is predicted the change could save up to £350,000.
As well as this, a second option could also see a fire engine from Peterlee sent to Seaham to provide cover at night, although this proposal is only expected to save about £50,000.
Similar changes are also on the table for Newton Aycliffe, which currently uses the same shift pattern as Seaham, and are due to be debated by Durham County Council’s Safer and Stronger Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee on Monday (January 7).
Government funding cuts mean CDDFRS is facing a budget gap of £735,000 by 2021/22.
But the proposals have also been prompted by changes at other fire brigades.
According to CDDFRS: “A legal ruling involving South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service means we need to make changes to one of our shift systems.
“We have recently carried out a comprehensive review of our emergency response provision across the entire service to ensure we have the right level of resources, in the right place, at the right times, to keep [the public] safe and make sure we are offering the most efficient and effective service possible.”
A consultation on the changes started in November and the public have until February 4 to submit comments.
A report on the survey’s findings is expected to be debated by the County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Authority on February 22.
James Harrison , Local Democracy Reporting Service