HEREFORD fire fighters secured over 1,000 signatures in just six hours to support a referendum on cuts to 24/7 emergency cover out of the city’s fire station.

Fire Brigades Union (FBU) organisers said the response – totalling 1,065 signatures - was “overwhelming”. 

The signatures were collected over six hours in High Town, Hereford, on Saturday.

Many signing indicated that they were prepared to pay more in the council tax precept raised by the fire service to keep current 999 cover.

A huge majority of those people asked were not aware that a public consultation exercise had been concluded by Hereford and Worcester Fire & Rescue Authority (HWFRA).

On this basis, the FBU calls the consultation process a “failure”.

Another petition is planned for Saturday, May 24.

FBU members at Hereford fire station want a referendum on cuts they say leave the county with “dangerous” emergency cover.

The FBU has challenged HWFRA to put the proposed cuts to a public vote.

As proposed,  full-time 24/7  first response fire and rescue fire cover at Hereford fire station comes down to a single appliance and no more than seven fire fighters on a shift.

Those seven - presuming all are present -  would be the full-time 999 response for the whole county.

“We want a simple yes or no referendum as to whether or not the public find this acceptable for a county like Herefordshire,” said area FBU secretary Steve Gould.

“If they don’t then are they prepared to pay a few pounds more on the fire service council tax precept  to keep a second appliance crewed,” he said.

The FBU case is that single full-time appliance cover is dangerous when the seven, or fewer, full-time fire fighters on shift faced crewing not only the  appliance but specialist functions also operating out of Hereford station like an aerial ladder unit and rescue boat.

In theory, the nearest full-time back-up would be from Malvern. 

Realistically, support for the single crew would come from the retained crew of the on-call appliance at Hereford station and, beyond that, the retained crews around the county, which face cuts of their own under the plan.

“This puts more pressure on retained crews and their employers,” said Mr Gould.

“Ten years ago full time watch numbers were in double figures,  now we have to say at least eight are needed on shift – and that’s not ideal,” he said.

HWFRA accepts that response times in the county will be compromised by cuts that save more than £767k,  but maintains that, with the retained crews, enough support is in place.

Service figures show an average of around 900 incidents a year within the Hereford station area including  100 fires in buildings and 60 road traffic collisions.

Average response times currently range between 10-15 minutes.
Against this, the cut proposed for Hereford would cost 22 full-time  fire fighters their jobs.

Another 48 of the county’s retained fire fighters lose their roles too, with rural stations at Bromyard, Kingsland, Ledbury, Leominster, Ross-on-Wye and Whitchurch,  reduced to a single appliance or closed completely.

In February, HWFRA put the cuts plan hold as a single vote margin secured the shifting of £485k from the a £1.5m surplus into the revenue budget to help cover costs.

A further decision is due in June.