Plans to spend £2million hiring 40 more firefighters, including a new specialist unit for Sunderland

Almost £2million could be spent recruiting 40 new firefighters and three dedicated crews for Tyne and Wear.

By James Harrison
Friday, 12th March 2021, 12:56 pm
Peter Heath, assistant chief fire officer at Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service
Peter Heath, assistant chief fire officer at Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service

Chiefs have drawn up plans which, if approved, would see a new team stationed in Newcastle and permanent staffing for a further two specialist units in Sunderland and Gosforth.

The move follows a decade of service cuts in the region, but bosses insist sound money management over years means they are now in a position to reverse some of these.

“For 10 years, the fire authority has taken things out, trimmed things, to meet budget pressure,” said Peter Heath, assistant chief fire officer (ACFO) at Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service (TWFRS).

“They’ve always been safe, they’ve always been planned, but the authority has also said if things improve we want to bring them back.

“We’ve managed to save a bit, cut a bit and we’ve amassed a decent amount of money that we now feel is safe, sound and sustainable to reinvest.”

The new scheme has been proposed as part of the brigade’s IRMP (integrated risk management plan), which the Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Authority is due to vote on when it meets on Monday (March 15).

If given the green light, it will see £760,700 put towards 16 firefighters to crew a new fire engine at West Denton, in Newcastle.

A further £1.151million will go to fund 24 firefighters to permanently crew Aerial Ladder Platform (ALP) based at Marley Park, in Sunderland, and Gosforth, in Newcastle.

Previously, ALPs were manned under a dual staffing arrangement, meaning they were run by crews with their own regular fire engine, and only sent out on request or for pre-identified buildings.

ACFO Heath added: “By adding one fire engine, we improve the speed in response to calls for fires, but we will also improve the availability of the height appliances and the availability of the command unit, which is absolutely integral to supporting firefighter safety.

“What we now have is an opportunity that that height appliance will always be available, so that if the commanders need it we can send it and there will be a crew available.

“We’re minimising potential for a delay and getting the resources to the scene, which I think is a critical factor for safety.”

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