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PETITION: Torquay fire victim joins fight to save fire crew

By Herald Express  |  Posted: February 28, 2013

really impressed: Martin Atkinson

Comments (3)

PEOPLE in Torquay should be proud of their outstanding firefighters and join the fight to save them from cuts, says one blaze victim.

Martin Atkinson says losing one full-time crew would be an unnecessary blow to a superb service.

Mr Atkinson and his family fled from their home in the early hours when an arsonist set fire to an annexe of his property in Windsor Road, Torquay, in December.

The fire happened on a busy night for the service when the town's three pumps were all in action dealing with various incidents. One of those crews now faces the axe.

Mr Atkinson has nothing but praise for the assistance he and his family received from Torquay firefighters.

The father-of-two, who comes from a Polish and Swedish background, said: "I have been involved in two other fires before I came to the UK and both times the fire brigade did more damage than the fire itself with the amount of water they used.

"This time I am really impressed and people can be proud you have this fire brigade in Torquay.

"First of all they really care and didn't damage anything.

"My five-year-old daughter was crying in the road because she had left her toy in the bed and the firefighter even went back in her bedroom to bring back her toy.

"And they used just as much water as they needed to do and no more. They explained everything they were doing, as did the police."

The roof of the annexe was completely destroyed in the fire.

Mr Atkinson said he could hear the sirens of the engine approaching before he had got off the phone to report the blaze.

He added: "Afterwards they covered the roof in their own sheets and let me keep them until I could start work on the repairs.

"Really in my life I've never met so many nice, friendly people.

"They checked everything to make sure it was OK.

"My wife was still upset the next day and could smell smoke while she was at home alone so they came again at 2pm, which reassured her. They said it was still their job."

Devon and Somerset Fire Authority needs to make £5.5million of savings due to a cut in its government grant.

One of the proposals is to replace the second full-time crew in Torquay with a retained or part-time crew. There will be no compulsory redundancies.

A three-month public consultation has begun prior to a final decision in the summer.

The Herald Express is calling on people to get involved and Stop The Fire Cuts.

Mr Atkinson fears axing a full-time crew would mean firefighters would not be able to offer the same level of service, however much they wanted to.

He says the people of Torquay will only realise what they have got when it is gone.

"All the firefighters who came that night were needed and were all busy doing something," he said.

"None of them were standing around. They were all working.

"I was surprised when I read the paper and saw they wanted to cut them.

"The problem is that people always think a fire won't happen to them. I was the same.

"You don't realise how much you need them and only really understand properly if it touches just you how important they are. I am very happy to support them and the Herald Express campaign."

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  • Pingu007  |  February 28 2013, 8:52PM

    I would be interested to find out exactly what proportion of an average fireman's time is spent actually "on the job" and not just waiting around for a blaze to put out. I'm sure they are all nice, friendly people - as your interviewee states - but I don't see the problem in having a part-time/on standby crew to assist the main crew when required. It would also have been interesting to find out exactly what the three tenders were all doing that evening: your story states they were all in use, but Mr Atkinson is reported as saying he could hear the siren while he was still on the phone reporting the fire, so it does rather beg the enquiry whether they were just driving around looking for something to put out? And could someone please enlighten me as to the point of including in this story the detail that the interviewee has a Polish and Swedish background. How is this in any way germane? Unless, of course, the arsonist (whose detection, court appearance and sentencing are not even considered here) took against some Ikea curtains? It's also interesting that the Herald is always keen to get up a petition to save jobs that are paid for from the public purse, yet they're quite happy to cut their own employees to the bone: one of those old-fashioned things, a decent sub-editor, would have driven a, well, fire engine perhaps, through the holes in this story.

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  • Noblebranch  |  February 28 2013, 2:18PM

    Fire fighters do not look for praise when carrying out a range of differing scenarios, that is their trade and what they train for and are paid for. We all like to be praised for a great deal of different reasons and Fire Fighters by the nature of their occupation get more than most and are happy to receive recognition, if its warranted like everybody else. The incident the gentleman describes is a typical fire that requires 2 Fire appliances to attend as soon as possible to enable the fire to be tackled quickly before it spreads to other floors/buildings. The proposal to downgrade Torquay Fire Station by removing 1 x 24/7 Fire appliance and its crew, will inevitably cause delays to the 2nd Fire appliance. The dangers that will ensue if this proposal is voted through in the summer cannot and must not be underestimated, we all pay a proportion of our Council Tax to the Fire Service to enable us all to remain as safe as possible in our homes and on the roads, will we get a reduction in this payment to the Fire Service? if we are indeed to effectively have a much lesser public service, I think not. Please continue to support local crews by signing their petitions and making your views known to the Consultation Officer, time is limited we only have to the 22nd of April to make our case.

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  • uquip  |  February 28 2013, 11:45AM

    Rather strange that the Herald are taking a political bias and constantly reproducing this petition with a story to support it everytime. We all value the fire service but public funding is not a bottomless pit. It's a pity that the Herald don't produce a 'catch the arsonists and lock them up (not a community sentence)' campaign. Or is that not on track with the political editorship of this paper.

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