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23rd Sep, 2021

Concerns over safety when new crewing system is introduced to Droitwich Fire Station

CLAIMS have been made that changes to the way Droitwich Fire Station is crewed will mean there will be no guaranteed fire engine to go out overnight.

Concerns were raised about the move, which comes in from March 1, by a person claiming to be a long-serving employee from Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service (HWFRS).

Currently there are two ‘day crew’ watches which staff Droitwich’s main fire engine, working four days on and four days off.

They are station-based from 8am to 6pm each day and at home ‘on-call’ for the rest of the time.

The second engine, for large incidents or when the first engine is already out, is staffed by retained firefighters who all live and work within five minutes of the station and opt to be on call for between 50 and 120 hours-a-week.

From March 1, the day crew will stay the same but both fire engines will effectively be operated on a retained basis from 8pm to 6am every night which, our source says, will mean they are not ‘guaranteed’.

But Assistant Chief Fire Officer Keith Chance said the new system already successfully operated at other stations, including Redditch and Bromyard.

The changes are being implemented because of a Working Time Regulations EU court ruling which means day crew cannot be contracted to work retained night-time hours.

Firefighters could still work the same hours by voluntarily opting out of the 48-hour agreement but could opt back in at anytime.

HWFRS admitted other claims our source labelled ‘the Chief Fire Officer’s problems and not those of the Droitwich community’.

Bosses had not been able to get existing firefighters from other parts of the county to move to Droitwich to be part of the day crew (a requirement because of the on-call aspect of their current contract).

That issue had stayed the same because until last year the service had not recruited new staff for a decade.

Mr Chance said: “The change will not affect the number of fire appliances available or the time they will take to reach incidents.”

And he claimed by amalgamating Droitwich’s two watches and the retained firefighters into one unit to work the nights, more firefighters would be available from 6pm to 8am.

He said fire engines had not gone out in the past because of a lack of crew but this would be less likely from March 1.

He added recruiting for Droitwich should be easier in future as day crew firefighters would not have to live within five minutes of the fire station.

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