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of the British Broadcasting Corporation



Tuesday, 20 November 2007, 16:59 GMT
'Serious concerns' over fire cuts

A council has expressed "serious concerns" over proposed cuts which could see a Kent town losing one of its fire engines and 24 firefighters.

Shepway District Council held a meeting with Kent Fire and Rescue Service (KFRS) to discuss the planned changes at Folkestone fire station.

The cuts are part of efficiency savings having to be made by the brigade, but it said public safety would not suffer.

The council said it was "serious about protecting our residents".

The proposals are part of a countywide future management plan being consulted on by KFRS.

Folkestone currently has three fire engines - greater cover than any other comparable town in Kent - after an extra engine was placed there during the construction of the Channel Tunnel.

Fire prevention

The proposed removal of one of them plus a specialist height vehicle would lead to the loss of 24 firefighting posts at Folkestone, although redeployment within the fire service would be sought for all those affected.

Councillor David Godfrey said: "We appreciate the financial restraints facing the fire service but we do have very serious concerns about the proposed cuts."

Bill Welsh from KFRS told the council there would be increased investment in fire prevention efforts and building safety.

"Intervention [tackling a fire] is the last stage," Mr Welsh said.

"There has been a dramatic reduction in fatalities because of the investment in community fire safety."

Mr Welsh added that even a fire station on every corner in Folkestone would not help to save more lives.

A public consultation on the proposals closes on 18 January.