A controversial new fire station in South Kirkby is expected to open next week.
The first shift at the station (pictured), on South Kirkby Business Park, will start at 8am on Friday, January 16. The facility will replace South Elmsall Fire Station, which will close on the same day, and Hemsworth Fire Station, which could close within the next few weeks.
The new station will be staffed by a total of 13 firefighters, compared to the current 24 at South Elmsall and around eight retained firefighters at Hemsworth, although the fire service said it was hopeful that compulsory redundancies would be avoided.
The new station is one of nine being built to replace 17 stations across the county by 2020. The South Kirkby development will be a two-bay operational fire station with a separate close-call accommodation building. The new building will have a training tower, a two-bay vehicle garage, offices, a rest and recreation area, a service yard and car parking.
West Yorkshire Fire Service was criticised when it first announced the plan, with the Fire Brigades Union saying it would lead to firefighters being made redundant, double the response times to calls and create a difficult working pattern for staff.
Coun Steve Tulley – who fought the proposals – said the closure of South Elmsall station, which was built in 1942, would be a great loss to the community.
He said: “The station is part of our culture and our history and I am disappointed to lose it. We did what we could to save it but we were unsuccessful and now we just have to hope nothing happens because of the longer response times.”
Steve Beckley, deputy chief fire officer, said: “The new fire station at South Kirkby represents a significant investment by West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Authority and it will provide a modern and efficient base from which to deliver our highly-effective emergency response and community safety activities in the area for many years to come.”
An official opening for the South Kirkby station is still being planned. Crews at Hemsworth are also planning their own commemorative event for past and present firefighters.
They are currently collecting photographs and stories of the station, which was built in 1975, for an exhibition.
Beverley Corcoran, whose husband Nigel is a firefighter at Hemsworth, said: “A lot of the firefighters have been there a long time and they will be sad to say goodbye so we’ve decided to do something to mark the end of the era.
“It is sad for Hemsworth as well because the station is a big part of the community. It is a shame for the town to lose such experienced firefighters and a great facility.”
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A waste management facility on the same former colliery site as the new station will also open later this year. The South Kirkby Waste Treatment Facility opens on Monday, March 16.
The current centre on Holmsley Lane, South Kirkby, will close at 4pm the previous day.
The new plant will have a waste treatment facility, a materials recycling facility, a composting facility and an education centre.